Flint, MI—The Flint Schools Board of Education is continuing its discussions around potentially requiring students to carry clear backpacks district-wide.
At a Monday Feb. 13, 2023 governance meeting, the Flint Community Schools (FCS) Board weighed in on the administration’s proposed policy change to disallow backpacks for students across the district unless they are clear. The Board has not cast a vote on whether or not to authorize the proposal.
“We want to continue to do what we can as a district to prevent any harm or any prohibited items coming into the district, whether it’s a weapon or not,” Kevelin Jones, the FCS superintendent, said during the meeting.
The administration previously brought the proposal for the Board’s consideration at a Jan. 18 meeting, following a telephone threat made against the Accelerated Learning Academy that month. At the time, the Board decided to discuss the matter further at a later date.
“To me, it’s a good idea, but there’s some ambiguity,” Terae King Jr., Board vice president, said in an interview, noting that students could still conceal a weapon by wrapping it in a t-shirt, for example.
Trustee Joyce Ellis-McNeal said some community members have expressed concerns that the proposed ban seems punitive to students who have followed district policies, questioning whether a district-wide policy would stigmatize Flint Schools students.
“Why don’t you guys make clear plastic bag for those that violate the policy, and not labor our children walking down the street with plastic bag, which signify they’re from Flint Public School,” Ellis-McNeal said at the meeting.
In response, Keiona Murphy, the FCS assistant superintendent, said the administration doesn’t view the policy as a punishment or one that would single out students, instead, she noted, it’s like following the security protocols at an airport.
“Many of us have never done anything or brought any contraband into an airport,” Murphy said during the Monday meeting. “But we all subscribe to following those safety procedures that they have in place.”
Jones told Flint Beat that the FCS administration first began discussing a clear backpack policy after the 2021 Oxford High School Shooting in Oxford Township, Mich.
During its 2022 to 2023 academic year, FCS’s three secondary schools—ALA, Southwestern Classical Academy and Holmes STEM Middle School Academy—have seen incidents where students brought in prohibited items, including an airsoft gun and a deconstructed gun, according to Jones. The superintendent added none of those incidents led to physical harm.
With respect to the proposed backpack rule, Jones told Board members that “it’s not foolproof, but it’s another step in the direction to try to prevent as much as possible any weapons or any prohibited items coming into our school.”
According to Jones, existing school security measures include an unarmed security guard at the front door of all 11 district schools. Each secondary school also has a law enforcement liaison officer from the Flint Police Department as well as walk-through and hand-weld metal detectors. He added that the administration is exploring whether adding x-ray machines as a security measure is feasible.
Meanwhile, Murphy told Flint Beat prior to the Feb. 13 meeting that the district is planning to purchase clear backpacks for all students at the cost of $36,000. She did not provide response as to how the Board’s potential vote on the clear-backpack requirement affected that plan by press time.
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