PARKLAND, Fla. _ Marjory Stoneman Douglas students are receiving a new school supply when they return Monday from Spring Break _ clear backpacks.
The district is providing them to students free of charge, and they will be the only backpacks allowed for the time being, officials say.
It’s one of a number of security measures the district has enacted as a result of the Feb. 14 shooting at the school that killed 17. Gov. Rick Scott is providing up to eight Florida Highway Patrol officers to guard the school, and extra Broward Sheriff’s deputies and district police officers are also stationed there.
Students returning for classes Monday found four entry points open from 7 to 7:45 a.m. and, after that, the front office was the only entry point. It’s a trial run to see how it works, Stoneman Douglas High Principal Ty Thompson wrote in a memo to parents.
“The process will be very similar to when you enter a sporting event, concert, or even Disney World,” he wrote. “As a first step, we are looking to see if we can get the kids through these entrances in a timely manner.”
Metal detecting wands are planned but those aren’t ready and district officials haven’t given a date for when they will be implemented.
“We will need to use the first few days to issue backpacks and organize around the new procedures,” Superintendent Robert Runcie said.
Students will be allowed to bring large sports equipment or band instruments in non-clear bags or cases, but they should expect to have the bags searched, Runcie said.
Students will also be issued identification and lanyards to wear them by the end of the week, Thompson said.
On Monday, many students entered the campus carrying plastic grocery bags containing their books and other belongings.
Kyrah Simon, 17, brought her lunch in a grocery bag but didn’t bring any books or supplies.
“They said don’t bring backpacks so I didn’t bring anything,” said Simon, a junior at the school.
She questioned the benefits of requiring students to use clear backpacks.
“I think it’s the allusion of security, and it’s not going to accomplish anything, except make students feel like their privacy is being violated,” Simon said.
My new backpack is almost as transparent as the NRA’s agenda.
I feel sooo safe now.
— Lauren Hogg (@lauren_hoggs) April 2, 2018
Stoneman Douglas junior Dylan Bowerman said he thinks the backpacks will make it harder to conceal weapons, “but something about it seems like a violation of privacy. I know it’s for my own safety, but I still feel uneasy about it.”
Runcie said the clear backpacks are “an initial measure, not a permanent one.”
He said the district may allow other backpacks after the district sees how well the wands work. The district is preparing a security assessment of all schools as part of a grant application to receive state dollars, he said.
Children are protesting to take away 2nd Amendment Rights from American citizens, my Country is starting to feel like a Police State.🤔
— Wine Detective (@LennyKeller) April 2, 2018
Many students and parents have been on edge in the past few weeks.
In addition to the shooting, there have been a string of other incidents at the school, including a student making a threat on social media, two students being arrested for bringing knives to school and the brother of killer Nikolas Cruz being arrested for trespassing on the campus.
The new policies are an attempt to balance convenience and privacy with safety and security, Thompson wrote in his memo. He said these policies may be facing some adjustment in the coming weeks.
“It is very difficult to balance both convenience/privacy with safety/security; if there is more of one, the other often suffers, but I will do my best to balance the two,” he wrote.
(Staff writer Anne Geggis contributed to this report.)
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