Students will be seeing clear bags next year, and inside them too

   Janeyliz Baez was “walking with my friends when all of a sudden one of them stopped dead in her tracks and showed me her phone screen…we’ve had [regular] backpacks for our whole school career and the thought of [such a] change is bizarre,” the freshman says. 

   In recent efforts to make schools safer, Broward County students will be required to wear clear backpacks starting August 21, 2023, and throughout the 2023-2024 school year. This includes purses, duffel bags, fanny packs, lunch boxes, etc. Mesh and colored bags are not permitted, even if transparent. The decision does not apply to teachers, staff, volunteers, or visitors.

   Broward County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Earlean Smiley calls the move a “game changer” saying, “It will allow school security personnel and everyone on campus to quickly spot and report if someone has brought a prohibited item to school, and it will also help serve as a deterrent.” (NYP)

   The rule leaves few exceptions. Allowed are small non-transparent pouches for personal hygiene items, thermal food containers carried inside clear lunch boxes, and school-approved sports and instrument carrying cases, to which junior Valerie Glen finds unreasonable. 

It is taking away all sense of privacy from students and it’s taking away our freedom of expression since backpacks need to be clear now

   “It is taking away all sense of privacy from students and it’s taking away our freedom of expression since backpacks need to be clear now,” she says. 

   Likewise, “I feel like us students should be able to have our privacy and boundaries when it comes to backpacks,” says sophomore Chloe Correa. “I understand it’s for students’ safety but students also want to be able to feel comfortable while being in a school environment. Having clear backpacks truly takes away from that.”

   Despite sentiments of an invasion of privacy, some students see the positives behind the decision, although they admit it might not be the optimal answer to school security.

   “I don’t think clear backpacks are a bad thing only because it helps add protection to our school,” says Coralie Richardson. “I do think, though, clear backpacks are not the only thing that will help protect us.”

   Coralie mentions government intervention as a more effective solution. “The country and state need to enforce stricter gun laws and other restrictions to keep us safe. Clear backpacks are on the path to doing so.”

   “I understand the worry and the attempt for safety measures,” Baez says. “However I feel that clear backpacks won’t be the best solution. It’ll make everyone less content and could lead to other problems like stealing or sneaking [in] items in other ways.” 

   A former student of Pembroke Pines Charter—now at American Heritage—shares her insight into having clearbacks; the K-12 private school in Plantation implemented a see-through backpack policy following the Majorie Stoneman Douglas shooting in 2018.   

   Initially seeing some of the same issues Jags have with privacy, Sofia Gomez noticed people become “more comfortable with items being visible…nobody seems to really care about what shows and what doesn’t,” the junior says. 

   And having experienced the rule for about three years now, “I do feel a little safer with the clear backpacks since it’s harder to sneak dangerous items in.”

   However, Sofia says clear bags don’t necessarily make that impossible, so other measures, such as Heritage’s security checkpoints, contribute to her feeling of safety. 

   “Heritage hasn’t had any code red (lockdown) threats unlike other schools in Broward who have had several threats,” she says. “I think Broward County ultimately made the right choice.” 

   Still, Gomez finds it “upsetting to see that clear bags seem like the only solution so far, especially with ongoing battles with political figures, the Second Amendment, etc.”

   “I don’t think the idea of banning certain guns or just having stricter gun laws should be as discouraged as it is right now. I’m glad Broward County has at least taken initiative; it shows me that more people are starting to listen.”

   Whether Broward County’s move is to remain in place is up for question. Majorie Stoneman Douglas’s own clear bag rule lasted only five months following the shooting. 

   Currently, the rule is awaiting board approval; the final decision will be made and released June 13, 2023. 

   Some say yes to see-through bags, arguing that it’s aimed to prevent security issues, while others say no, raising concerns of self-privacy. As students hunt for their first ever transparent backpacks for the 2023-2024 school year, a consensus to this fiery debate will soon become clear as well.

   A final decision from the county will be released June 13th.