When students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High return to school after spring break, they will be required to carry their belongings in clear plastic backpacks, and students and staff will have to wear identification badges at all times on campus.
The new rules are among security measures outlined by Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie in a letter sent Wednesday to students and parents. Last month, 17 people were killed at the Parkland, Fla., school in a mass shooting, allegedly perpetrated by a former student.
“Over the past several weeks, we have received many inquiries regarding our district’s efforts to fortify the Marjory Stoneman Douglas campus and expand safety protocols at the school,” Runcie wrote. “We want to assure you that the safety and security of our students and employees remain our highest priorities.”
Students and parents were also told that additional school security personnel will be on campus and that the district is considering using metal detecting wands and installing permanent metal detectors.
While security upgrades have been among the demands by students at the school, the requirement that they use clear plastic backpacks did not sit well with many teens, said Jenna Korsten, a Stoneman Douglas senior. The school district said it would provide the backpacks to the students free of charge.
“They feel like it is something that would be in a prison,” Korsten said. “We need a real change, not a change like this. The backpack idea is an invasion of privacy. This is not a way to solve an issue.”
Korsten said she hopes the school district will reverse its decision. She does, however, support the possible installation of metal detectors, which she believes will be more effective than clear plastic backpacks at keeping weapons out of school.
Other students took to social media to express their unhappiness with the backpack policy.
“Clear backpacks don’t do anything except make us look stupid,” tweeted Carly Novell, also a senior at Stoneman Douglas. “We want to be safe, not uncomfortable. The only thing that can really have an impact on our safety is gun control.”
Alanna Valencia, a freshman at the school, said in an interview she understands why the clear backpack rule is being put in place, but she and her friends are unhappy they have spent money on backpacks and purses they can no longer bring to school. She also worries that the uniformity of the bags will create a new problem.
“What if you leave your backpack and get it mixed up with everyone else’s?” she asks. “It will be hard to keep track.”
Joseph LaSorsa, a security consultant and retired Secret Service officer, said clear backpacks are not a bad security measure, but they don’t address the bigger problem of attackers who are mentally ill.
“They’re focusing on controlling the student population, but it’s not the student population that is the issue,” LaSorsa said. “You can institute all the clear backpack rules, you can bring in the National Guard, it’s still not going to stop the mentally ill from committing an attack.”
Asked if the school district had heard complaints from students and if it was reconsidering the clear backpack policy, a district representative said no additional information was immediately available.
A large contingent of Stoneman Douglas students began arriving Thursday in Washington for the March for Our Lives, a gun-control march they helped plan, that is expected to draw thousands of students to the nation’s capital Saturday. The school is on spring break next week and reopens April 2 when the new policies will be in place.