By Bryan Boggiano
Students and parents gave the Broward County School Board a “clear” message: They are against clear backpacks, clear lunch boxes, and school uniforms for the 2023/2024 school year.
Event attendees who packed Plantation High School’s auditorium on Monday almost universally panned the new guidelines. They expressed their anger and disapproval clearly with a cacophony of shouts, jeers, and boos.
The school board’s town hall revolved around new safety measures scheduled to take effect beginning on Aug. 21. Under the new rules; students will only be allowed to carry clear backpacks and bags, such as lunch boxes, purses, and duffel bags.
Mesh and colored backpacks would also not be allowed, even if they are transparent, according to the district’s website.
Exceptions to the rule include small non-transparent pouches for personal hygiene products, thermal food containers in lunch boxes, school-approved sport-specific athletic equipment cases, and school-approved instrument-specific band equipment cases.
The new proposals come as the district reports a generally increasing trend in Class A and Class B weapons, vaping products, and tobacco products found in students’ possessions since 2019.
“The safety and security of our students and staff is our top priority,” said School Board Chair Lori Alhadeff.
Audience reception toward clear backpacks and bags was generally hostile. Parents, students, and teachers alike stated the products do not have data to support their effectiveness, would violate privacy, restrict self-expression, increase bullying and violence, put kids who walk home or use public transportation at a higher risk of getting mugged, and provide a false sense of security.
“This is not a way to keep [students] safe,” said Ozan Gunay, a Coconut Creek parent.
Parents also believed proceeding with the policy would make schools resemble jails and create an environment where students cannot trust teachers.
Elaine Keyser, a Parkland parent, said students believe authority figures infringe on their privacy and self-expression under the guise of security.
Others argued clear bags would disproportionately affect students with disabilities or those who are economically underserved.
“That’s not a cost burden they can really afford,” said Cynthia Dominique, North Region Advisory Council chair.
Generally, solutions that eventgoers were open to included metal detectors, more investments in mental health,
At the town hall’s conclusion, most school board members disagreed with the new policies, including Alhadeff.
“I think it’s important that we look at the reality and the safety measures we can implement for our schools to make our schools as safe as possible for our students,” she said.
Vice Chair Debbi Hixon and Members Sara Leonardi, Nora Rupert, and Brenda Fam also expressed their disapproval, while Dr. Jeff Holness said he had concerns.
“We need to make decisions based on data that proves these policies are effective, and I have not seen that data,” Leonardi said.
Members Daniel Foganholi and Torey Alston expressed neither explicit approval nor disapproval. Member Allen Zeman said he is rethinking the policy.
For some attendees, including North Regional Advisory Council Vice Chair Karla Figueroa and High School Representative Nicole Morst, the board’s vote will determine if they listened.
“I hope that the board members listen to the parents,” Morst said. “I hope they understand, by hearing us tonight, that they have to listen to the parents.”
Following Monday night’s meeting, the board was scheduled to host a workshop on June 20 and a final vote on July 25. At Tuesday’s school board meeting, the board is set to consider ceasing the rulemaking process for clear backpacks. This would also remove consideration for the clear backpacks at the June 20 and July 25 meetings.
- Bryan has a degree in journalism from the University of Florida and earned his masters in geosciences from Florida International University, where he focused in atmospheric sciences. His interests include weather, entertainment, and municipal government.
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