The outgoing 8th grade class of St. Cornelius Catholic School, Pennsylvania, received ballistic shields for their backpacks as their graduation gift Monday.

The unusual gift was given to each student by Unequal Technologies, a sportswear company, as they were ready to head to high school next academic year.

Commenting about the shields, Unequal CEO Robert Vito said, “It’s sad the times have called for such a product to be invented, but we have answered the call.”

The company said the backpack plates, which are quarter-inch thick and weigh 20 ounces, have shown to resist ammunition, including a 9 mm full metal jacket round, a .44 Magnum round, and birdshot fired from a 12-gauge shotgun.

"Handguns are useless against a product like this. Shotguns are useless against a product like this," said Vito, whose daughter attends the same school. “The parents have to take responsibility for their child’s safety.” 

Vito presented the shields, tested at military laboratories, to 15 students and 25 faculty members. The company started developing the shields about 45 days ago after the school’s principal asked for them, Jim Caldwell, the executive vice president of Unequal Technologies told VICE news.

“This principal was sort of a catalyst,” Caldwell said.

Principal Barbara Rossini told Fox29, “Anything that we can do to protect our children and our staff ― that’s my job, to protect them. … I have to do the best I can.”

One great-grandparent who attended the graduation event said, “You hear about these school shootings almost weekly, and I can't believe that's where we are in our nation today, but that's the fact.”

An 8th grader at the school, Jacob Nicosia, told USA Today, “I never thought I would need this.”

Tammy Brogan, a teacher at the school, said as she showed her 9-year-old daughter how to slip one of the shields into her school bag, “I don’t know if she fully understands the impact.” 

However, not everyone supported the shields.

Curtis Lavarello, the executive director of the School Safety Advocacy Council, told the New York Times, “I have never recommended it in my business at all. … I think it creates a false sense of security for the student and the school itself.”

“Honestly, it is probably a sad statement that it sounds as though we are going to start equipping students as we do law enforcement officers, I would prefer to see money in areas with better results,” he said.

“The chances of a ballistic backpack coming into play during an attack or saving a child from injury are slim,” Aaron Westrick, an armor expert with the Ballistic Armor Research Group told ABC News this year. “If it's real to you and you feel better sending your kid out with this kind of armored product, that’s your choice.” 

St. Cornelius Catholic School, situated in a quiet location, has tight security and an extra deadbolt lock in every classroom.