Safety vs. privacy: NJ high school bans regular backpacks
SOUTH RIVER — As districts across the nation grapple with preventing the next school shooting, this borough's school district is now requiring high school students to use only clear backpacks in the hallways.
A message on the school website said the policy was being implemented "to ensure the safety of our entire school." Students can bring a regular backpack to school but will have to keep it in their locker and carry their belongings in a clear bag.
Students will have the options of buying the backpacks on the first day of school for $12. The backpacks look like a regular backpack except it is made of see-through plastic.
The new rule is one of several security upgrades the district has implemented since last year, schools Superintendent Sylvia Zircher said in an email to New Jersey 101.5.
"We do not claim that there is any one approach, procedure, or solution to address every potential security risk, but feel that safety and security are priority areas that require continuous attention and effort on the part of our school district," Zircher said.
Not all South River students and parents are on board with the plan with concerns about privacy.
Student Saleem Nurallah posted an online petition that said that not being able to wear a regular backpack made him feel like a "prisoner in our high school."
A person who signed the petition named "KK" was concerned that "girls have to carry around feminine hygiene products and other stuff [...] and we don’t want other people to see and it’s none of their business."
"Why do you have to invade students privacy when they don’t go through teachers bags, cell phones, and other personal items," Juliano Pereira wrote.
Brenda Branco was concerned about the effect on the environment.
"I think it is a very hypocritical to have people wear clear back packs because they want us students (not including myself) to start an earth club and not use and drink out of plastic water bottles," she wrote after signing the petition.
A South River student who spoke to NJ.com said she was concerned the policy would not allow her to express herself and that her belongings will be on display for all to see.
Parent Shortrese Martin told CBS New York that students will still find a way to get whatever they want to bring to school.
Zircher said those concerns are addressed by the fact that students have options, including not using the clear backpacks at all and carrying their belongings. Students can still bring their regular backpacks to school but will have to leave them in their locker during the school day.
Rutgers University requires clear backpacks for those attending games at its football stadium. Lakewood Public Schools implemented the policy in 2018 after a 9-year-old boy brought a gun to school in a backpack.
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