Public schools in Broward County, Florida, will mandate clear backpacks for all students beginning next school year.
The school district announced Friday afternoon that all students would only be allowed to bring clear backpacks to school beginning in August. The decision came after a student in the district was arrested for making a school shooting threat. It also comes five years after the district was rocked by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“Providing safe learning environments that are conducive to student learning is of the highest importance, not just for Broward County Public Schools but for school districts across the nation,” Interim Superintendent Earlean C. Smiley said in a statement, via NBC 6 South Florida. “This added layer of security is a game-changer. It will allow school security personnel and everyone on campus to quickly spot and report if someone has brought a prohibited item to school, and it will also help serve as a deterrent.”
- small, non-transparent pouches for personal hygiene items
- thermal food containers inside clear lunch boxes
- school approved sport-specific carrying cases for sport equipment
- approved instrument cases for musical instruments
The decision came in response to a school shooting threat from a student this week. Police arrested an 18-year-old student at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs after she allegedly threatened to carry out the shooting when the bell rang at the beginning of the school day, Local 10 reported. The threat said that the assailant would “secretly” shoot students; it also said that there would be more than one shooter. The threat was not specific about which school it would target, which set off false alarms at schools throughout South Florida.
The suspect faces three counts of written threats and one count of false reports, both second-degree felonies; as well as 15 counts of knowingly disrupting or interfering with the lawful administration or functions of an educational institution, a second-degree misdemeanor.
Last week, the Flint, Michigan, school district went one step further. The Flint Board of Education voted unanimously last week to ban students from carrying backpacks at all. The decision came after two separate safety incidents occurred at Southwestern Classical Academy in Flint, both of which prompted officials to close schools in the area. The policy went into effect on Monday.
As of Monday, students are not allowed to carry backpacks into school buildings. Small purses carrying personal items, clear plastic bags with gym clothes, and lunchboxes are allowed within reason, the letter noted, but those bags will still be subject to search. If a student brings a backpack to school, the office will not keep the student’s belongings. Instead, he or she will be sent to the school office and a parent or guardian will pick up the student’s belongings. Athletes will also have to drop off their equipment at the front office every day.
“Across the country, we have seen an increase in threatening behavior and contraband, including weapons, being brought into schools at all levels,” Superintendent Kevelin Jones wrote in a letter to parents Thursday. “Backpacks make it easier for students to hide weapons, which can be disassembled and harder to identify or hidden in pockets, inside books or under other items. Clear backpacks do not completely fix this issue. By banning backpacks altogether and adding an increased security presence across the district, we can better control what is being brought into our buildings.”