Do Clear Backpacks Prevent School Violence? 1

Do Clear Backpacks Prevent School Violence?

With the new school year approaching, many districts are implementing enhanced security measures following the May 2022 killing of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas. Among the safety measures is a new policy in some districts requiring clear backpacks for students. The rationale among school administrators in support of the policy is that contraband, including a weapon, would be more difficult to conceal in a transparent bookbag.

With that in mind, the two questions to address are this: 1. Does the policy create an additional unintended harm; and 2. Is there any evidence that the policy works?

To answer the first question, we need to acknowledge that there is often a delicate balance between security and privacy. Applying this to schools, is it the district’s obligation to educate students with the knowledge and skills needed to become productive citizens within an environment that promotes dignity and fosters learning–or simply to keep students safe, much like airline passengers? For schools, there is a delicate balance between the two concepts.

An example of an unintended harm could be the violation of privacy experienced primarily by older students who carry personal hygiene products. Younger students may risk being picked on for carrying an emotional support item, such as a favorite stuffed animal. Additionally, the cost of purchasing the backpacks falls on the families, unless the district provides them.

The second question addresses the intent of the policy: Do clear backpacks deter students from bringing weapons to school? According to the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center at Rutgers University, there is no evidence that transparent backpacks do anything to combat school violence or otherwise enhance safety.

Forensic Security & Protection, LLC cautions against security approaches that are based upon fads, gimmicks, or clever marketing. All our security assessments and recommendations are thoroughly grounded in research. Nothing else.