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Schools to require clear backpacks for middle- and high-school students next year

Press release from Alachua County Public Schools

In light of ongoing concerns about youth violence and following recommendations from local law enforcement, Alachua County Public Schools will require middle and high school students to use clear backpacks for the 2022-23 school year.

Since the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas in late May, ACPS staff have met twice with representatives from local law enforcement and the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Discussions have centered on steps that can be taken to reduce the incidence of violence in the community and schools. Moving to clear backpacks was one of the recommendations from those meetings. Others included 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. 

“Safe schools promote safe learning environments for all our children,” said Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr. “I support the efforts of the school district in taking this step to keep our children safe.”

“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 Chief Lonnie Scott of the Gainesville Police Department. “Despite the unfortunate inconvenience to students and families, this policy is certainly worth trying.”

ACPS families and staff have already received a preliminary notification about the change. Details about what kinds 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. 

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The district does plan to order a number of clear backpacks for middle and high school students whose families are unable to provide them. It is also working with local community groups that typically distribute backpacks to families. That includes People Against Violence Enterprises, led by Pastor Karl Anderson, which distributes more than 1200 backpacks every year as part of its Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally.

Meetings between district staff and law enforcement, DJJ, and other community partners will continue throughout the summer and beyond.

“This is a community-wide problem that calls for a community-wide solution,” said Dr. Anntwanique Edwards, the district’s chief of Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement, who organized the meetings. “We are committed to working with law enforcement and other groups to tackle this issue and ensure that our schools are safe.” 

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