New York City, NY — An increasing number of schools across the country now require students to wear transparent backpacks due to security concerns. Many people question whether schools nationwide should adopt the policy.
The clear backpack policy mandates children at middle schools and high schools to wear transparent, see-through bookbags as a safety measure as mass shootings remain a growing problem within the school district. Clear bookbags were also a popular back-to-school item this year as many campuses in Texas, Florida and Mississippi required them.
Some middle and high school students don't believe clear book bags will solve security issues on campus, according to social media postings.
“Although they may be easier to search, they are not making the lives of students easier,” a high school student told YR Media. “Like my school and many others, they don’t really look through them and detectors aren’t the best.”
Ateya Ball-Lacy, an assistant principal at a Northeastern middle school, introduced the idea for her campus to have transparent bags two years ago. Many members of the community weren’t on board with the proposal. As security concerns at middle schools grew nationwide, she reintroduced the idea last school year in 2022, which then was adopted.
“If a kid were to bring in a weapon, we really had no way of knowing because we don't have to go through metal detectors,” Ball-Lacy said. “Unfortunately, this is an issue that we're having as a country … I came up with this idea, because I said, ‘What can we do to provide some level of safety and security for ourselves and our students?’ Nothing's 100 percent but at least we made some type of attempt to ensure that we are all safe by at least knowing what our children are bringing in.”
As the policy has been adopted countywide this school year, there hasn’t been any pushback from most students or parents as they appreciated the safety measures put in place, Ball-Lacy said.
“Middle school students especially are very serious about their identity, what they wear, how they present and they will push back if they feel as though that right to be an individual has been infringed on. We haven't had that experience,” said Ball-Lacy.
However, some people are against the proposal of schools implementing the policy as it could give a “false sense” that all schools are safe, said David Irwin, co-founder of Thru, a national consulting firm focused on K-12 education and advising over 100 school districts.
“Oftentimes, it's ignoring all of the other incredibly complicated things that districts need to be doing to help make schools safe,” said Irwin as he recommends schools invest in intervention programs such as anti-bullying instead.
He added: “I'm not suggesting any of these things (programs) are easy. An easy thing to do is to check the box and say that we want clear backpacks… I think it ends up being a distraction.”
There is also the argument that students can still hide items in a clear backpack and girls have the added issue of needing something concealed to hide their hygiene products, said Leslie Sparacello, a school superintendent in Austin, Texas.
Yet, Ball-Lacy argues that a clear bookbag is “the minimum” a school can do to implement safety measures for students and teachers.
“Before any student can learn, they must feel safe. If the building is unsafe then teaching cannot happen… I don't think that we are doing anyone a good service to ignore the reality of what's happening,” Ball-Lacy said.
Kailyn Rhone, (she/her) is from Florida, but is an NYC-based journalist covering education, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @onlykailyn.
Edited by Nykeya Woods.