Frustrated with inaction on gun control, schools decide to ban backpacks

“It’s a small step but we want to do whatever we can to help students feel safe.”

credit: getty images
credit: getty images

In response to security concerns following the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school several weeks ago, a high school in Idaho became the latest to implement a policy banning backpacks.

Seeking to ensure that students feel safe, Caldwell High School announced the new policy banning all backpacks on Monday, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported. The school later revised the policy the following day to allow students to bring backpacks, but to require them to be stored in lockers throughout the school day.

Caldwell is not alone. In the weeks following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, which left 17 dead and 14 injured, schools across the country have been scrambling to address safety concerns from worried parents and students alike. Dozens of schools throughout the country have received bomb threats since the Florida shooting. And some schools have responded by banning cell phones, a policy which, in the event of an actual threat, could actually impede efforts to contact authorities or loved ones.

“If you’re going to bring a weapon to school, you wouldn’t hang it around your neck, you’d probably put it in a backpack,” Scott L. Hopes, a member of the Manatee County, Florida school board, told local television station WFLA. The county’s middle and high schools recently banned backpacks following numerous school threats.

Efforts to police apparel following a school shooting are nothing new in the United States, but as history has shown, they do little to curtail mass shootings. Following the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, which killed 25 people and wounded 20, schools began banning trench coats — the dress code of choice for shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who called themselves the “trench coat mafia.”

Some schools also banned all black or “goth” attire following the Columbine attack, after reports surfaced that one of the shooters was dressed in all black.

Almost two decades and 208 school shootings later, however, it is clear that dress codes have not stopped such massacres from occurring. But absent meaningful gun control policies, many school officials feel they have no choice.

“We are taking a proactive approach,” Ann Marie Thigpen, a superintendent of an Ohio school district, told Fox 8 Cleveland. “It’s a small step but we want to do whatever we can to help students feel safe.”

“Honestly, at this point, with all the school shootings, I would probably be on board with just about anything,” Nicole Wade, a parent of a student at a State College, Pennsylvania school, told WJAC TV.

Meanwhile, several GOP lawmakers, as well as President Donald Trump, have suggested enacting policies to arm teachers and militarize schools, while making little effort in the way of comprehensive gun control policy. In Idaho, for instance, the state legislature recently rebuffed a measure that would have blocked convicted domestic abusers from owning guns, with critics arguing that the bill violated Second Amendment rights. In Florida, just weeks after the Parkland shooting, lawmakers rejected a proposal that would have banned semi-automatic assault weapons like the AR-15, the weapon typically used in mass shootings, including the Parkland shooting. Oregon is the only state to implement new gun-control laws since the shooting, closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” in background checks on Monday.

And as the debate over gun control rages on in Congress, action has stalled, with Republicans and Democrats caught in a stalemate over issues of increased background checks, age restrictions, and removing guns from the hands of the mentally ill. Confusion over Trump’s stances on these issues has further exacerbated the issue.