Are clear backpacks the solution to school violence? These experts say no.

Posted at 11:12 PM, Jan 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-20 23:12:47-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Newport News School Board is searching for the right solution to increase safety in schools after a shooting happened at Richneck Elementary School earlier this month.

Teachers and parents have raised serious concerns after school administrators said the 6-year-old boy intentionally shot his teacher.

The school board has already announced that they are in the process of getting metal detectors for all schools. In a Tuesday night meeting, they shared they are also considering requiring clear backpacks for all students along with additional security.

If clear backpacks are required, the district would pay for them. Despite the move for safety, some national experts have expressed concerns about the efficacy of the measure.

Mac Hardy, the director of operations for the National Association of School Resource Officers, said the move may create a false sense of security because weapons can still be hidden in a backpack, in between books or under clothing.

Michael Dorn with Safe Havens International has been working with schools following shootings for decades. He said that he has seen clear bags in schools time and time again and he has found it normally doesn't work well.

His non-profit shows schools how weapons can still be concealed in child-size clear bags, saying they have been able to have 26 weapons concealed in a bookbag, including a shotgun and some large knives.

"We've not had a single client that's started with clear bookbags that hasn't discontinued the process," Dorn said.

Dorn suggested schools work like organizations like his to look at different behavioral approaches. He said some of these pieces of training include student threat assessments, self-harm prevention, visual weapon training and spotting behaviors of someone who might be concealing a weapon.

He added that after tragedies such as what happened at Richneck Elementary, school leaders are bombarded with companies that are reaching out to them to sell different products. He said that while some are great, some also are not which is why it is important for leaders to take time to evaluate their plans.

"If you rush to put too many things in place too quickly, you can make people feel good until it's Homeland Security theater, whether they intend to or not," Dorn said.

However, there are other solutions that districts can take in the meantime. Dorn suggests improving training for student supervision and improving the school climate and culture.



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