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Schools Ban Backpacks Before Government Bans Guns

Schools Ban Backpacks Before Government Bans Guns

The government isn't banning guns, but schools are banning backpacks.

Public schools in Flint, Michigan have become the most recent to ban backpacks from school campuses, in what experts believe is a misguided effort to crackdown on gun violence.

The school board voted unanimously to pass the policy, which bans all bags, including those made of a clear plastic material. There are exceptions for lunchboxes and small purses, which will still be subject to search at any time. Student athletes must store their equipment in the front offices.

Flint Community Schools Superintendent Kevelin Jones said that the policy would prevent students from concealing weapons in their bags, noting that "things have changed."

“Clear backpacks do not completely fix this issue,” he wrote in a letter last week to parents. “By banning backpacks altogether and adding an increased security presence across the district, we can better control what is being brought into our buildings.”

Other school districts in the United States have sought similar measures, with Miami-Dade and Broward Counties in Florida implementing backpack bans in the final days of the school year.

Such policies come in response to recent incidents, such as in Virginia, where in January a 6-year-old hid a handgun on his person and shot his first-grade teacher, Abigail Zwerner. Just last week in Tennessee, an "accidental" discharge of a firearm inside a 14-year-old's backpack "grazed" his teacher.

“We have thought long and hard about this decision, knowing that it will impact how scholars and families prepare for their days and operations in the classroom,” Jones said. “However, based on the issues we continue to see across the country regarding school safety, we believe that this is the best solution for those we serve.”

Jones added: “We apologize for any inconvenience that this policy will have on our scholars and families, but when it comes to the safety of our school community, we will not take any chances."

Such policies would not have prevented shootings such as those in Uvalde, Texas or Nashville, Tennessee, where the perpetrators were not students and used assault rifles, which could not fit in a standard backpack.

In fact, even simply requiring students to use clear backpacks has not reduced the number of mass shootings or gun violence in schools, according to experts. While banning backpacks completely is a newer concept, Jaclyn Schildkraut, director of the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, previously told the Austin American-Statesman that easily visible solutions such as the use of metal detectors and clear backpacks have not prevented gun violence.

“I think that the problem is that because everybody is leading with emotion rather than looking at the evidence, they're also not considering the collateral effects of these types of policies,” she said. “What message are you sending to students about the safety of their school and your trust and belief in them as being safe students? ... It’s telling them you don't trust them, and their school is not safe.”

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