A Michigan public school district has banned backpacks inside all school buildings for the remainder of the school year, citing a nationwide rise in weapons being brought into schools.
Flint Community Schools’ backpack ban went into effect on Monday. The decision followed two separate safety incidents that canceled classes for two days at a district school last month, MLive reported.
In a letter to the community, Flint Community Schools Superintendent Kevelin Jones blamed a rise in “threatening behavior and contraband, including weapons,” at schools nationwide for the decision. In a statement to HuffPost, he also cited local threats against the district’s students, teachers and staff within the past few weeks.
“In addition to the backpack policy, we have increased the number of safety advocates throughout the district and added to our existing safety protocols over the past few weeks,” Jones said in an email Thursday.
The ban was approved by the Flint Board of Education, the district’s administration and principals, and received support from the Flint Police Department and other safety advocates, he said.
“Backpacks make it easier for students to hide weapons, which can be disassembled and harder to identify or hidden in pockets, inside books or under other items. Clear backpacks do not completely fix this issue,” Jones said in his community letter.
Small purses will be permitted. However, any student who brings a backpack to school will be sent to the front office so that a parent or guardian can be called to pick up their belongings. The office will not hold this property, the district’s website states.
“Based on the issues we continue to see across the country regarding school safety, we believe that this is the best solution at this time for those we serve,” the district said in a document addressing the change.
Backpack bans have gone into effect in schools nationwide in recent years amid shared safety concerns.
Last year, students in another Michigan school district were required to use only clear backpacks on campus after a school shooting at a local high school left four people dead.
Backpack bans have also been seen in Texas, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Idaho. Some of these bans were later canceled or changed to permit only clear plastic bags following an outcry.
These policies have come amid a rise in school shootings, with last year seeing more school shootings nationwide than in any year since at least 1999, according to data collected by The Washington Post.
As of last month, there have been at least 44 incidents of gunfire on school grounds this year, resulting in 19 deaths and 33 injuries, according to data collected by the nonprofit organization Every Town For Gun Safety.