Middle and high school students will be required to wear see-through backpacks next year, the Alachua County School District announced Monday.
The decision to have clear backpacks also comes after an increase juvenile violence last year, school officials said, including the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers died.
In May, an eighth-grader at Fort Clarke Middle brought a gun to campus, which also played a role in the new term, school board member Mildred Russell said.
“This measure was taken to increase safety at school and I think it’s a good idea,” she said.
Parents were notified of the changes by text, call and press releases late Monday afternoon.
“In light of concerns about youth violence and following discussions with law enforcement, Alachua County Public Schools will require clear backpacks only for middle and high school students for the ‘school year ahead,’ the voicemail read.
He further said guidelines for the types of see-through backpacks allowed “and what can be inside” will be available by the end of next week.
Clear plastic bags not as durable, not bulletproof
Clear plastic bags are not as easily found in stores and are known to be less durable. Nor are they created to be bulletproof like some heavier bags to help people protect themselves in the event of a tragic shooting.
Since the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in late May, district officials have met with representatives from local law enforcement and the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), the district said in a news release. .
Forcing transparent plastic bags was part of the means put in place by the leaders to curb the rise in violence. Other remedies included more safety and security training for school staff and families.
“Safe schools promote safe learning environments for all of our children,” Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr. said in a prepared statement. “I support the school district’s efforts to take this action to keep our children safe.”
Gainesville Police Chief Lonnie Scott agrees, saying people need to research multiple strategies to find a solution.
“Despite the unfortunate inconvenience to students and families, this policy is certainly worth trying,” he said.
The district said it will provide clear backpacks to families unable to provide them and will work with local organizations that provide textbooks. Officials said they plan to work with community leaders to achieve the goal, which includes People Against Violence Enterprises, led by Pastor Karl Anderson, which distributes more than 1,200 backpacks each year as part of its rally Stop the Violence/Back to School.