Updated Aug 28, 2023 - Politics & Policy

More shootings push schools to reckon with backpack dilemma

Illustration of a backpack broken into four pieces, forming an "x" shape.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

New school rules requiring see-through backpacks are rising as students return to class this year.

Why it matters: More shootings on campus are making administrators choose between letting students express themselves and taking extra steps to keep schools safe.

What's happening: At least 27 school districts in the past 18 months have started restricting backpacks in response to an uptick in school shootings, the Washington Post reported.

The big picture: Some schools started giving out clear backpacks in the immediate aftermath of a shooting in the mid-2000s, said David Riedman, the founder of the K-12 School Shooting Database.

  • Now an increasing number of districts are instituting it as an umbrella policy.
  • "Schools are constantly in that reactionary mode, even if they haven't actually had a shooting," he said.

By the numbers: This calendar year has seen 221 school shootings so far, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database.

  • In 2022, there were a total of 305.
  • A decade ago, in 2013, there were 34.

Zoom in: The policies span the country and vary widely.

Between the lines: Many Texas schools made changes after the Uvalde shooting, Axios Dallas co-author Naheed Rajwani-Dharsi reports.

  • In Texas' Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District near Houston, all middle and high school students are required to use clear backpacks.
  • Dallas' Independent School District, the second largest school district in Texas, tested the policy last year with middle and high school students and expanded it to all students this school year.

The other side: Opponents of these policies have said that backpack regulations are put in place in lieu of meaningful policy change.

  • "When every student is forced to use a clear backpack, you're making every student feel like they're a potential school shooter or a potential threat," Riedman said.
  • 'That undermines the trust that you need for students to tell school officials if there's a problem brewing."

Go deeper: School gun violence torments America's youngest generation

Go deeper