Social Navigation

Michigan school district bans backpacks, even clear ones, amid gun concerns


Public schools in Flint, Michigan, began enacting a ban on backpacks, even those made of clear plastic, on Monday that was enacted over concerns about guns, weapons and threats.

The ban, unanimously approved April 25 by the Flint Community Schools Board of Education, came after district officials shut down and then shuttered Southwestern Classical Academy for one day in April amid unspecified threats.

Last week, a high school student in Knoxville, Tennessee was arrested after a gun he allegedly had in a backpack accidentally exploded in a classroom, resulting in minor injuries to a teacher, authorities announced.

Eisenhower Elementary School in Flint, Michigan on May 1, 2023.
Eisenhower Elementary School in Flint, Michigan, on Monday.WEYI

And in January, a 6-year-old reportedly brought a handgun to his elementary school in Newport News, Va., in a backpack before using it to seriously injure a teacher.

“Across the country, we have seen an increase in threatening behavior and contraband, including weapons, being brought into schools at all levels,” the district said in a FAQ for parents.

“Backpacks make it easier for students to hide weapons, which may be disassembled and harder to identify or hidden in pockets, inside books, or under other objects,” he said. .

The school board has decided on a fairly simple ban on backpacks that prohibits those made of transparent plastic. The ban applies until the end of the school year.

Parent Alvin Hamlin speaks about the book bag ban, in Flint, Michigan on May 1, 2023.
Parent Alvin Hamlin speaks about the book bag ban in Flint, Michigan on Monday.WEYI

In a letter to parents and other voters last week, Superintendent Kevelin Jones argued that a total ban was the best way forward.

“We have thought long and hard about this decision, knowing that it will impact how scholars and families prepare for their classroom days and activities,” he said.

In February, the district surveyed students, parents and staff members about limiting backpacks to clairs. “This alternative does not completely solve this problem,” the district concluded, according to the FAQ.

“Weapons can still be easily hidden in see-through backpacks,” he said.

The new policy states that small handbags for personal items, clear plastic bags for sportswear and lunch boxes will still be allowed “within reason”. They will also be subject to searches, Campus 11, District K-12 said.

Alvin Hamlin, the father of a sixth-grader at Eisenhower Elementary School, approved of leaving the shoulder bags at home.

“It’s basically for the safety of the kids,” he told NBC affiliate WEYI of Northern Michigan. “You have kids bringing guns and stuff to school now.”

Parent Tayana Martin speaks about the book bag ban, in Flint, Michigan on May 1, 2023.
Parent Tayana Martin speaks about the book bag ban, in Flint, Michigan, on Monday.WEYI

Tyanna Martin, fellow Eisenhower Elementary, said she also approves of the new policy, but with some reservations.

“You can hide anything anywhere,” she told WEYI. “I would always be worried, because anything can happen.”

A key to stopping campus violence, Martin said, is having students who know better. “I just hope kids learn to make better decisions than they do,” she said.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.