Alachua County middle and high school students will be required to use clear backpacks when they return to campuses on August 10.
According to an Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) press release on Monday, concerns about youth violence and recommendations from local law enforcement agencies led to the decision for the 2022-23 school year.
“Safe schools promote safe learning environments for all our children,” said Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr. in the release. “I support the efforts of the school district in taking this step to keep our children safe.”
ACPS staff recently met with law enforcement and the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) representatives following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas in late May. The discussions centered on steps that can be taken to reduce the incidence of violence in the community and schools, according to the release.
The move to clear backpacks was one of the recommendations from those meetings, along with more effective communication between law enforcement and schools about community conflicts that spill over into schools and vice versa and more training for school staff and families on safety and security.
“GPD agrees with the school district that we must look for ways to improve school safety while recognizing that no single strategy is the answer,” said Gainesville Police Chief Lonnie Scott in the release. “Despite the unfortunate inconvenience to students and families, this policy is certainly worth trying.”
ACPS sent preliminary notifications to families and staff about the change. Details about what type of backpacks will be allowed and what can be carried in them will be shared at the end of next week. Guidelines for schools on implementing the requirement are also being developed.
ACPS plans to order a number of clear backpacks for middle and high school students whose families are unable to provide them, according to the release. The district will also work with local community groups that typically distribute backpacks to families, including People Against Violence Enterprises, led by Pastor Karl Anderson, which distributes more than 1,200 backpacks every year as part of its Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally.