Following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, 2017 that killed 17 people and wounded 17 others, the school district decided to increase security. Some of the measures put in place includes more police at the school, new IDs students must wear at all times and clear backpacks.
Although the backpacks are a new safety measure, many of the students don’t like them and have a lot to say about them. The idea of distributing clear backpacks to students in an attempt to prevent weapons and drugs in schools is not new.
In fact, many schools have tried out this policy as school shootings and violence in schools has increased over the years. Regardless of the situation and reasoning, students are rarely, if ever, happy about the see-through book bags.
The administration of Stoneman Douglas High handed out mandatory clear backpacks to students after spring break. One of the most obvious reasons that the clear backpacks are not well-liked by students is because they are an invasion of privacy. For instance, many female students voiced concerns about carrying pads and tampons in a transparent backpack where they are clearly visible to other students.
There is also the issue of students who are taking medication and do not want peers or faculty to know what they are taking, if at all. Most of the students’ belongings are on full display at all times, which can be quite embarrassing and uncomfortable.
It is unclear if the backpacks can contain other bags for personal and private items. School security inspects students’ musical instrument cases and sports bags upon entry, but the students can still carry these bags and cases around the school.
One of the students, 17-year-old Carly Novell, says that when she came to school with a plastic lunch bag, security told her to get it cleared. But instead, she just went to class with no protests from school security. Small loopholes and flaws such as other bags within the clear backpacks or bags containing instruments or sporting equipment gives a little more room for the student’s privacy.
Students, such as Jaclyn Corin, point out that the backpacks were unnecessary for them but could be useful for other schools.
Thousands of clear backpacks were donated to MSD…it’s a shame b/c they should’ve been given to a school that actually needs the supplies. But since we’re stuck with them, I decided to make the most out of the situation & decorate!! ??#MarchForOurLives pic.twitter.com/dgW7uNN536
— Jaclyn Corin (@JaclynCorin) April 2, 2018
Some students even say that they don’t like the see-through backpacks because the bags do not smell or look good. Students compared the smell of the new bags to a beach ball. Novell told VICE News that “they’re ugly and they smell weird.”
The transparent bags also can take away from the student’s individuality. Backpacks often come in a variety of different colors, designs and shapes, but the clear backpacks are the exact same for each individual student. The generic layout for all the backpacks makes it more difficult for students to identify their specific backpacks.
The lack of differences between backpacks does not stop the students from trying new methods to express their creativity. A lot of students decided to use keychains and buttons to decorate their bland, clear backpacks and express their individual personalities and interests. In fact, many have paid tribute to their fallen classmates with “March for Our Lives” buttons and colorful, handmade signs in the bags.
On a more serious note, a lot of the students dislike the backpacks because they feel that they are just a way for the school district’s administration to say that they are implementing more security measures following the tragic shooting, all without actually making any major changes.
Many students voiced concerns about how the backpacks are in place for safety but do not make them feel any safer. The bags only seem to invade their privacy and distract them from both their education and the larger issues at hand.
Many students believe that the clear, plastic backpacks aren’t going to change or help the level of security. Instead, the backpacks are a small, simple solution to the much larger and more complex problem. A lot of people argue that clear backpacks won’t stop students from hiding weapons in other places such as folders, shoes or jackets.
The clear backpacks also made some of the students feel as if they were in prison, rather than in high school. Many students pointed out that the backpacks were not changing anything in regard to the school’s security.
A 17-year-old senior at Stoneman Douglas, Robert Bonczek, shared his views about the clear backpacks with VICE News saying, “At the end of the day if it doesn’t make us feel safer, what’s the point? It’s just a distraction.” Students feel that the increase in security measures constantly make them feel nervous and like prisoners, which tends to take away from their education.
Since students carry their clear backpacks around the whole day, the problems are a constant reminder. Students’ belongings are on display the whole day. Students remember the shooting and its aftermath as they use the backpacks. The bags look and smell strange; they’re distracting.
The backpacks are not just something students have to look at and deal with for a few hours. Both in and out of school, students use their backpacks to do homework, study or grab belongings from their bags. The unpopular see-through backpacks surround students at school while everyone is using them and while at home, often reminding them how much they dislike them because of their prevalence.
Many students have rebelled against the clear backpacks by putting both funny and meaningful signs in them. Some students put their personal items on full display on purpose to prove points about privacy.
A handful of other students even attached the $1.05 price tags to their backpacks. The price tags were what many students and protestors used during the “March for Our Lives” against Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Regardless, one thing is clear: transparent backpacks are not enough to protect the safety of high school students from gun violence.