Here's what back-to-school shopping looks like when we refuse to act on gun violence.

Back-to-school shopping has always been an annual rite of passage for most families — but it's starting look a little different.

In the past, back-to-school time meant buying some pencils, crayons, and notebooks. But now, bulletproof backpacks are an item appearing on many people's lists.

In summer 2018, back-to-school shopping shelves and ads have included bulletproof backpacks, inserts, and clipboards. Bulletproof backpacks are also increasingly showing up in kiosks at shopping malls.


Just earlier in 2018, bulletproof shields were given to eighth-graders at a Pennsylvania middle school. The shields were meant to be inserted into the students' backpacks — to better prepare them for high school.

The trend of bulletproof backpacks shouldn't be that surprising.

According to a national poll by Phi Delta Kappa International released in July, 1 in 3 parents in the United States express fears and concerns about their children's safety in schools, mainly stemming from repeated occurrences of school shootings.

The Washington Post reported that, since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, more than 215,000 students have experienced some form of gun violence at their school. So far, in 2018, there have been 23 reported school shootings.

Sales of bulletproof backpacks had a striking surge following the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that killed 17 people. One manufacturer — Bullet Blocker — said orders of bulletproof backpacks had a 30% increase the day after the shooting. Another manufacturer, Guard Dog Security, reported a 150% increase in items shipped.

But here's the daunting reality: Bulletproof backpacks are not the answer.

While a lot of these bulletproof backpacks and inserts are marketed to provide security and convenience, the truth is far from it.

Bulletproof shields don't necessarily offer protection from assault weapons and rifles like that used in the Florida high school shooting. Safety consultants also have gone on the record to say that bulletproof products aren't very effective and are a real distraction from the actual solution: gun control reform.

School is meant to be a safe learning environment for children. It shouldn't be a war zone. Parents should not feel the need to send their children in bulletproof gear to school before some even learn how to read.

It's time for us to act. On Election Day November 2018, vote for candidates that fervently advocate for gun control. Until then, you can donate to gun control organizations, call your congressional representatives, and educate yourselves on state and federal gun laws.

Come on, America. We can do better.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."