Backpack policies in spotlight
Backpack policies ebb and flow with violent attacks such as the stabbings at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville or the Columbine and Newtown shootings that put school safety procedures into harsh focus.
At districts across Western Pennsylvania, most school boards evaluate procedures, at least in passing, once each school year.
Colleen Murphy's daughter, Julia, attends Moon Area Middle School, where the eighth-grader says she has to make frequent stops at her locker because the school prohibits book bags in the classroom.
“(She is) sometimes late for class, so it's an inconvenience to students,” Murphy said. “As a parent, I don't mind it. It seems pretty standard these days and obviously is safer for the kids — though, clearly, there is no way to fully protect kids.”
School administrators often enact restrictive backpack policies to stem congestion and reduce student theft.
A ban on backpacks last week stemmed from an incident at Ramsey Elementary School, part of Gateway School District in Monroeville. The school said its kindergarten through fourth-grade students no longer can bring backpacks to school because a 6-year-old arrived with a loaded .45-caliber handgun in his book bag.
The boy gave the gun to a teacher. Police arrested his mother, who said she suspected visitors to her home put it there.
Students such as Murphy argue that short breaks between classes make it tough to switch their loads quickly enough to get to the next class on time.
At Fox Chapel Area High School, students may bring bags and backpacks to school — mostly for books and sports equipment — but must store them in lockers.
Students are not permitted to carry backpacks during the school day unless they have a backpack pass from the nurse, said district spokeswoman Bonnie Berzonski.
In Norwin, spokesman Jonathan D. Szish said: “We've made no decisions on the topic, but those discussions are happening.”
District officials usually discuss backpack and other security rules at their June meeting, he said.
At Franklin Regional, parents were told school officials planned to tighten policy after police accused sophomore Alex Hribal of stabbing 21 students and adults with two carving knives he brought from home. District officials declined to comment.
Elementary students at Brentwood Borough School District may carry book bags, but middle- and high-schoolers may not.
North Allegheny, Mt. Lebanon, Pittsburgh, North Hills, Seneca Valley and Moon Area school districts do not have board-approved backpack policies, but all reserve the right to check a student's property if he or she is suspected of general mischief.
“Those decisions are part of any security discussion,” Pittsburgh Public Schools spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said. “But you look at a lot of things. Metal detectors, security cameras and officers — it all comes up.”
Megan Harris is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-388-5815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Judge allows conspiracy lawsuit against UPMC, Highmark to proceed
- Woman commits suicide in North Braddock police holding cell
- Pittsburgh poised to settle lawsuits from deadly flash flood in 2011
- Risks don’t get any better as online dating prospers
- Animal activists targeting Vick at Steelers preseason game
- Pittsburgh councilwoman introduces pair of bills to protect animals
- North Shore’s Lacock Street to close 3 weeks for construction
- 2 Brentwood council members keep positions, council approves third resignation
- Penn Hills fire displaces 10
- Shaler man charged with homicide, abuse of corpse in McKeesport woman’s death
- Pittsburgh region enjoys healthy dose of ‘brain gain’