Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will scrap clear backpacks
When students return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in three weeks, they will no longer have to wear see-through backpacks. But they must walk through metal detectors.
The changes for the upcoming academic year are among the school’s new security measures, announced six months after the Parkland, Florida, school experienced one of the worst mass school shootings in US history.
The school is trying out the metal detectors on a pilot basis for the 2018-2019 year, Principal Ty Thompson announced on Twitter last week.
Other changes include: a buzzer system for the front office, additional resource officers and other security personnel, 52 new cameras, more fencing and new locks on the doors, as well as a new fire alarm tone.
The previous tone of the fire alarm, which went off during the February 14 shooting in response to smoke from shooter Nikolas Cruz’s gun, took an emotional toll on students, according to CNN affiliate WFOR. Seventeen people were killed in the shooting.
The school will continue to require its staff and students to wear an identification badge at all times while on campus.
But the clear backpacks, mandated in April after students returned from spring break, will no longer be required, Thompson said.
Several students had expressed privacy concerns over the backpack rule, which also required them to be searched at school entrances.
“It feels like being punished,” former student Isabelle Robinson told CNN last spring. “It feels like jail, being checked every time we go to school.”
Another student, Kai Koerber, said, “It’s difficult — we all now have to learn how to deal with not only the loss of our friends, but now our right to privacy. My school was a place where everyone felt comfortable. It was a home away from home, and now that home has been destroyed.”
Students protested the policy by putting large pieces of paper with messages such as “this backpack is probably worth more than my life” on them.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas will have at least 3,300 students when the school year starts August 15.
The new security measures were developed after months of study across the district, Broward County school officials said.
“We hired an independent security firm to conduct risk assessments for all district schools, to review our policies, training and security staffing models, and to provide recommendations for security enhancements,” Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie wrote last week in an opinion piece for the Sun Sentinel.
Across the district, the new security enhancements include more frequent “code red” drills, an upgraded camera network with a central monitoring system, a single point of entry for visitors and at least one armed resource officer on every campus.
CNN made multiple attempts to reach Thompson and Runcie for more details but was unsuccessful.
“I completely understand that everyone wants to know when the crucial work of securing our schools will be 100% complete. The answer is: The work will always continue. We will always be reviewing our policies and procedures. We will always be working to upgrade facilities,” Runcie wrote.
“We will always be redoubling our efforts to create a positive school environment that protects all students and adults from bullying, discrimination, harassment and assault.”