In our view clear backpacks are not the solution

Story by Hidaya Fatao, Staff Writer

They’re coming. Sometime in late March or early April, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) will require all high school students to attend school with CMS-issued clear book bags.

CMS spent over $400,000 on the book bags as a solution to reduce the number of weapons being brought into schools. The move was the first of potentially several, as CMS hopes to combat the growing weapons issue in CMS schools.

CMS ordered $400,000 worth of these clear backpacks for students.   (Photo courtesy of Office Depot)

The clear bags will only be required in high schools, and concerns over hygiene product placement, privacy and punishments have yet to be acknowledged. 

CMS is in a tight situation. From the start of the 21-22 academic year, CMS has found more than 20 guns and more than 100 weapons on campuses throughout Charlotte. This revelation has led to both students and parents having growing concerns about safety while at school.

Despite this, CMS cannot be expected to directly combat gun violence and weapon findings. The two are the product of larger, systemic issues that students and parents should push the federal government to acknowledge. 

Clear bags are the result of the United States government lacking the fortitude to enact laws that protect against gun violence. This lack of fortitude forces the responsibility of keeping society and schools safe onto local organizations, such as school districts. 

CMS recognizes this, but acknowledges that they can’t be drastic with requiring new policies, since the backlash they receive may ruin any and all chances at suppressing this issue. This is why CMS went with clear bags. 

The clear bags are a quieting mechanism. The district wants to look like it’s doing something. Both students and teachers want something done to protect themselves at school, and CMS understands they must take it slowly. By issuing the clear bags, the placebo effect that students are safe is established. 

Despite this, the solution is a common one. Since the 1990s, issuing transparent bags has been one of the go-to solutions to combat gun violence for schools. In a 2019 article about clear bags, Michael Dorn, the executive director of the school safety nonprofit Safe Havens International, said that some schools “adopted clear backpack policies only to later drop or loosen them, because they found it was not very effective”. With no studies showing a drop in gun violence after requiring clear bags, students are left to ask if not to create a placebo effect, what will the clear bags essentially do? 

This is why CMS is ignoring student concerns. CMS can’t exactly adjust the new protocol for student benefit, since it’s all they can do to pretend they’ve fixed this problem. Regardless, spending over $400,000 to establish a deterrent for students is absurd. Instead, CMS should have placed money into programs that would deter students from believing they need to protect themselves at school. Assuming CMS wants students to feel safe, CMS needs to refer to their students when looking for potential, lasting, solutions to gun violence and weapon possession at schools.

Overall, the issue is one that shouldn’t be on their table. In any case, school districts should not be expected to fix gun and weapon violence in their schools.