The Backpack Controversies

Story by Gabriela Odisio and Sarah Lynott

After seventeen people were killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on February 14, 2018, many schools have been taking different measures to better protect their students and faculty members; one of which has been banning backpacks inside school premises.

Spreading in popularity, backpack bans have been implemented in several schools across the US, including middle and high schools in Ohio, Florida, Texas.

Just three hours away from Boca Raton, schools all over Manatee County implemented a temporary backpack ban in February 2018 after a student brought a handgun inside his bag. Less than 10 days following the MSD shooting, school officials were apprehensive that other teens might try to recreate the event at different schools.

At Boca High, some changes were implemented, but there has never been a ban.

“We already banned big bags. Any kind of athletic bag or anything like that, those aren’t allowed to come in,” said school principal Dr. Susie King. “Our athletes meet up with their coaches and leave their bags with them or with our athletic director, coach Ryder.”

Schools like Rock Island High School in Illinois permanently prohibited students from bringing backpacks or purses inside classrooms, demanding them to be left inside lockers. The highly controversial measure has certainly raised discontentedness among students and staff, leading some of them to start an online petition asking the new policy to be revoked.

There are also a number of schools that did not ban backpacks, yet demanded them to be clear, exposing all of their interior contents. Complaints towards this measure include the privacy of carrying female hygiene products and other discreet objects. 

“At Stoneman Douglas, after what happened down there, they tried the clear backpacks,” said John Brock, Boca High Police Officer “But private stuff inside the backpacks could now be seen through them.”

The implementation of clear backpacks in certain districts has allowed other institutions nearby to analyze the results before adopting the measure into their own schools.

“The see-through backpacks bring their own set of problems and I know that [in] some of the districts that attempted that, it has not worked. Again, I do not foresee the district coming in with the policy of clear backpacks,” said Dr. King.

Different solutions for this problem are constantly being discussed on the various social media accounts created by members of such schools’ communities. Some argue that the use of bulletproof backpacks could be more efficient than the use of see-through ones.

Even though bulletproof backpacks seem like a great idea, they have some drawbacks, firstly being the price of the bulletproof backpacks which range from $200 to $500 dollars due to the Kevlar fabric made panels. This is unfortunate because not every student would have an opportunity to get one and be able to feel safer walking into school. Some feel it would matter anyway. 

“In case of a shooting, the chances of you being able to get ahold of your backpack before it’s too late are slim,” said sophomore, Olivia Keable.  

In the process of a code red, students are instructed to get in the safest possible position in their classroom immediately. It could be a closet or one section of the room where a shooter can not see the students through the window. During this process, students are only concerned about their own safety and drop everything else to get to that safe spot. In most situations, students would not have their backpacks during this emergency. 

“I think if a student had one they would feel more safe, but the backpack won’t always be there by your side in the case of a true emergency,” said Keable.

Even though bulletproof backpacks seem a good idea, they won’t always be useful if a dangerous situation were to happen and students leave their backpacks behind. Also, the pricing is not fair, some students are more fortunate than others and can spend that money, but some aren’t.

“I’ve been keeping a list of the different things that we’ve done here and so far we have about 43 initiatives we’ve done in this campus alone to help with the security,” said Dr. King.

Schools all over the country have continued to demonstrate their determination to protect their community by implementing dozens of safety rules, including controversial ones such as the bag ban.

“As we go along, we find out there’s more stuff we can do,” said Officer Brock “But right now we have the cops here, extra administrators walking around the courtyard during classes, you guys all have to wear your IDs; we’re doing everything we can right now.”

The United States has had fifty seven times as many school shootings as the other major nations combined.  After going through 288 school shootings nationwide since 2009, schools from west to east attempt, at all costs, to protect the lives of their students and staff, trying to always make school a safe place to be.


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