Backpacks ought not be an issue at school

Published 10:52 am Thursday, December 5, 2013

Column: A Happy Medium, by Erin Murtaugh

This year, Albert Lea High School adopted a policy that bans backpacks from the classrooms.

The policy, which is posted on the district website is as follows:

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“After reviewing the backpack issue with district personnel, parents and students, Albert Lea High School has adopted the following change to the handbook regarding backpacks/bookbags. This is a continued effort to reinforce a safe learning environment, as well as to minimize clutter in the classrooms.

“Students may use backpacks or bookbags, but they must be stored in the student’s locker during the school day. Backpacks or bookbags are not allowed in the classroom. Students may carry a pencil pouch or small purse to carry items needed for class (calculator, pencils, pens, etc.).

“Administration will have the final authority to approve or disapprove any purses or pencil pouches that come into question.”

So what is “the backpack issue?”

Well, according to staff administration, there has been a large amount of students bringing drugs to school. Is taking away backpacks the way to handle a drug problem? I don’t think so.

Students will find ways to bring what they want to without putting it in their backpacks. Some kid even had the bright idea to smoke in the bathroom a few weeks ago.

How about a program to help with the drugs? Rather than focusing on a backpack, focus on the issue that is supposedly being kept inside the backpack.

Another issue that has been brought up is bringing weapons to school in backpacks. Let’s take a look at school violence. Take shootings, for example.

Yes, some school shooters have in fact brought their weapon into school in a backpack, but sometimes they don’t. Shooters have not even been students at schools; they just walk in with a gun.

Once again, if someone wants to bring anything into school that’s not supposed to be there, they could find a way to bring it in without the use of a backpack.

Props to District 241 for placing buzzers at doors at schools. That’s a step in the right direction when it comes to stopping the wrong people from entering the school setting.

Focusing on drug use and violence in schools are great issues to work on, but I don’t think taking away backpacks is the solution.

Some students are even struggling with the adjustment. I’ve heard that students can’t get to their lockers between classes.

Also, being able to use a backpack during the school day is a great organizational tool to keep school supplies neat and tidy. I see where administrators at ALHS have intentions, but from a student’s perspective, backpacks weren’t the place to start.


Albert Lea resident Erin Murtaugh is a senior at Albert Lea High School.