County Schools repeal clear backpack mandate for upcoming school year

Published 8:27 am Wednesday, June 26, 2019

As part of the county school board’s June meeting last week, board members voted unanimously to repeal last year’s mandate requiring backpacks and book bags to either be transparent or mesh only.

Assistant Director of Schools Peggy Campbell said they formed the initial mandate in order to promote greater standards of safety in county schools.

“We wanted to ensure safety in our schools,” Campbell said. “At the start of last school year, we tried to mandate backpacks must be clear or mesh only. We then discovered some issues.”

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Right off the bat, she said parents were reporting the higher prices on these special backpacks were prohibitive, and on top of that, the quality of these backpacks was not as high.

“They were cost-prohibitive and not holding up,” she said. “They were also hard to find.”

She said the school even pitched in for last year’s Back-to-School Bash, providing the transparent backpacks for families who could not obtain them without the assistance.

In addition, the backpacks’ goal of improving school safety was not any closer than before they implemented the mandate.

“Potential items could have been wrapped in something within the backpack,” Campbell said. “They were not contributing to security.”

The above reasons prompted the school board to revisit the item during their June meeting one year later, where the motion to repeal the mandate passed unanimously Thursday, June 20.

“[Students] are allowed to continue to wear them,” she said of those students still using clear backpacks. “It is just not their only option.”

Despite being only a single-year policy, Campbell said the provision was not a wasted effort, saying the knowledge of what does not work is just as valuable as what does.

“You do not know if things are going to work until you try,” she said. “The board was being pro-active.”

She said safety is Carter County Schools’ number one priority.

“Our doors are locked, you have to be buzzed in and we require identification,” Campbell said. “A lot of the school systems around us do not have school resource officers in all of their schools.”

She said this standard will carry into future board decisions.