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Parkland Survivors Must Now Wear Clear Backpacks as Part of New School Safety Initiative

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not represent the views of Babble.

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The night I learned that my 8-year-old son has been practicing lockdown drills at his elementary school, I went to bed in tears. The public debate about how to handle mass shootings has always been at an arm’s distance where I live. It’s on the news, it’s online, but it’s not here. Not yet. But when my own child — who is still too young to understand the gravity of such things — asked me who the bad people are that might go into his school, all of the headlines and gun control debates became personal for me.

This week, kids at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are on spring break. And while they are home, the school board has been making moves to protect itself against future threats and breaches of security. The Broward County School Board announced in a letter home to parents March 21 that only clear backpacks will be allowed on campus from here on out. The school administration will provide the bags free of charge to each of its pupils, and both students and staff will also be given name tags to distinguish their bags from one another.

The thought process behind the clear backpacks initiative is that it will help ensure that weapons cannot be easily concealed in a student’s bag. After all, one of the most chilling details to come from initial reports of the Valentine’s Day shooting was how easy it was for the shooter to blend in with panic-stricken kids.

But it’s not the only new safety measure the school district is taking. According to the press release, the district’s schools are required to undergo new safety protocols, including locking classroom doors at all times classes are in session and requiring staff to undergo emergency preparedness and response training. The state is also providing nearly $6 million to the district to expand mental health services.

As a parent, my sole priority in life is to keep my children safe. And while I may have personal feelings on the gun debate in our country right now, I fully understand and support that each community has got to find a way to deal with the immediacy and urgency of keeping our kids safe while our elected leaders try, however slowly it may be, to find a meaningful solution. Clear backpacks might be the first of many changes that will help kids stay safe at MSD until more comprehensive changes can be made — whatever they may be.

It isn’t the entire solution, but surely it’s a start.

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It is worth noting that the embattled school has had an incredible streak of unsettling security breaches since the Valentine’s Day tragedy unfolded. According to CNN, nearly 20% of the students avoided school campus after one student was charged with bringing weapons to school and a second was charged with making threats online.

Soon after that, a Broward Sherriff’s Office deputy was suspended from his job after he was found literally sleeping on the job at the school’s campus. And in a bizarre and stunning admission of guilt, the brother of the now infamous gunman was caught skateboarding on campus so that he could “reflect” and “soak it all in”.

In a separate letter to the school district’s families, the Broward County School Board detailed plans to expand school security measures in several ways. All visitors will be funneled through a single school entrance point and each campus will have at least one resource officer. Additionally, risk assessments for every school in the district will begin in the coming months.

No matter which side you’re on in the gun control debate that continues to rage on in our country, as a mother, I just hope we can at least all agree that our children need to be protected by whatever means necessary — even if that means starting with small steps like clear plastic backpacks.

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