US & Canada

Florida shooting: Students defy transparent school bags rule

Student returning to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in the US with a clear backpack - part of a new policy to combat school shootings, 2 April 2018 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A student poses with her new bag

Survivors of the deadly school shooting in Florida have resisted new security rules that ban all but clear backpacks at their school.

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, adorned their bags with signs, badges and slogans protesting against the measures.

Seventeen people were killed in the shooting on 14 February.

The attack led to an extensive social media campaign, culminating in a national march for tighter gun control.

But students have argued that the new bags will not prevent future attacks and infringe their privacy.

The rules about the clear rucksacks, which were provided free to students, came into effect on Monday as classes resumed after the spring break. Other security measures announced last month include mandatory new ID badges for students, with plans also in place for airport-style metal detectors.

A number of security breaches were reported in the weeks following the killings. The gunman's brother was charged with trespassing on the school grounds and three students were arrested - two for carrying weapons and one for making threats on social media.

Students have raised a number of doubts about the transparent backpacks.

Logistical challenges

One of the most immediate objections to the bags has been that they offer no long-term solution to the issue of gun violence. Some pointed out that they would not have prevented the 14 February attack, as the gunman was not a student at the time of the attack.

One pupil argued that even if the bags were effective in preventing mass shootings, more wide-reaching reform was needed.

Meanwhile, others pointed to the logistical challenges of checking the bags of over 3,000 students who attend the school and questioned the priorities of policy makers.

Privacy and theft risks

Other students complained about the lack of privacy for students, with some saying that they felt like "prisoners".

Issues were also raised over the effect the new bags would have on girls carrying sanitary products, or students with personal medication.

A clear-bag policy has been in operation elsewhere in the US. Following the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, the NFL announced that only transparent bags would be allowed into stadiums for games.

When similar rules have been introduced in other school districts, there have been fears that students could be at risk of theft, as their possessions are clearly visible.

However, some reacted with humour.

One 17-year-old boy put tampons into his bag to protest the decision, and revealed that his action had given him the added benefit of teaching him about women's health issues.

Gun lobby's influence

Other students attached a symbolic price tag to their new bags to protest against payments made to lawmakers by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The tags were initially posted on the March For Our Lives website ahead of the demonstrations on 24 March. The students see the NRA funding as "blood money".

According to the march's organisers, the amount, $1.05 (75p), represents the total received by Florida Senator Marco Rubio from the NRA divided by the number of students in the state.

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