Backpacks hampers effectiveness
After hearing one teacher's testimony on why they should be done away with, the Storm Lake Board of Education will soon decide the future of backpacks in Storm Lake High School.
The board may vote at a 7 p.m. meeting June 12 on whether to change the high school's policy regarding backpacks, knapsacks and purses in the building. The SLHS faculty recently voted unanimously to do away with the use of backpacks during school hours, excluding physical education classes. With the ban, students would be able to enter and exit the building with their backpacks, but must keep them stowed in lockers. If the board passes a ban, it will be effective for the 2002-2003 school year.
SLHS administrators cited three main reasons for the ban, including students and teachers tripping in classrooms cluttered by backpacks, preventative measures in the event of weapons brought into the school via backpacks, and finally, the potential for physical stress and back pain for students due to the weight of the backpacks.
At a May 22 meeting, SLHS faculty member Don Parkhurst spoke to the board on why backpacks should be eliminated. Parkhurst later said that classroom clutter and problems accommodating disabled or special needs students were chief issues in the attempted ban.
"It's not a civil liberties issue, but it hampers my effectiveness as a teacher," Parkhurst said of the backpacks. "We have limited space as it is, and students and myself are constantly tripping over them in the aisles."
Parkhurst said that the disorganization of backpacks is also a source of damage to textbooks and other materials.
"The books I require for my classes are getting torn up faster because students are just shoving them down in their backpacks," Parkhurst said. "During the state's big budget crunch, it's becoming difficult to replace them."
Parkhurst said that although he usually feels safe in the school, incidents such as the Columbine shootings as well as Sept. 11 influence the feelings and actions of many, and played a small part in influencing the attempted ban.
"Only on a couple occasions have I not felt safe in the school," Parkhurst said. "It has gone through my mind what could be in those bags, particularly after events like Columbine or Sept. 11... 99.9 percent of the time, schools are safe, because kids are generally good," Parkhurst said. "But if you can prevent any likelihood of violence, you should. All it takes is one bad thing to happen."