Clayton County students to carry clear backpacks in new school year

Clayton County Schools has banned backpacks that are not clear for the 2022-2023 school year because of safety concerns.

Clayton County Schools has banned backpacks that are not clear for the 2022-2023 school year because of safety concerns.

In an effort to keep weapons off campuses, the Clayton County School district will provide students with clear bookbags and require their use when school resumes next month.

School leaders did not say how much providing bookbags to all 52,000 students would cost, or when they will be available.

“In preparation for the return to school, with respect to the safety of all students and staff, as a reminder, the district will only allow students to carry clear bookbags for the 2022-2023 school year,” district officials said in a Monday news release.

The school district disallowed the use of all bookbags and lockers late last academic year after close to 100 weapons were seized on busses or on school grounds. Those weapons included an AR-15 assault rifle and a Glock 48 handgun, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed. Other weapons confiscated included knives, brass knuckles stun guns and tasers, the AJC investigation found.

No one was killed or seriously injured in any of the incidents.

Clayton County is the latest to adopt new measures to improve school safety in the wake of mass shootings across the nation, including those on school campuses. Clear backpacks will be required this year for students in Rockdale County Schools and are mandatory in Atlanta Public Schools sports venues.

In an effort to quell school fighting and improve focus in the classroom, Fulton County Schools this year will bar elementary school students from using phones during the school day but they can have the devices on campus. Middle and high school students can’t use phones during class without the teacher’s permission, but the phones may be used during non-instructional time.

Fulton students also face discipline for recording fights, posting scuffles online or sharing such videos with others.

The May 24 shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and two teachers came the same day Clayton ended its 2021-2022 academic year.

Clayton Schools Superintendent Morcease Beasley put the ban in place in April.

“I am concerned that it is just a matter of time before something happens because our society seems to be bent on continuing with violence and it’s over into our schools,” Beasley said in April when announcing the bookbag ban. He was on vacation Monday and was unavailable for comment.

Emails and text messages between school officials leading up to the locker and book bag ban showed that they were terrified of potential of violence because of the flood of weapons being confiscated — and because of the conflicts they had seen during the school year.

Throughout the year, students threatened teachers and their classmates, weapons went off accidentally in buildings and even some toy guns looked real enough that alarmed parents called into school offices to report them, according to the documents.

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The AJC has followed Clayton County Schools’ struggle to address school safety since it banned lockers and bookbags last April. The newspaper reviewed hundreds of emails, texts, police reports and updated policies in the weeks leading up to the ban. The documents showed school leaders feared possible school violence because of a flood of guns, knives and brass knuckles on campus.