BEDFORD, Ohio — The Bedford City School District’s youngest students will be expected to use clear backpacks for the 2023-2024 school year, according to district officials. This comes as new metal detectors, to be used by adults only, have been installed in four of the district’s schools, plus the administration building.
“Clear backpacks are federally funded for our pre-school through our fifth grade,” said district superintendent Dr. Cassandra Johnson. “In addition to that, we have received federal funding also to provide school supplies for all kids, to remove that barrier.”
District families with young students received an email alerting them of the new backpacks. An email from the principal of Glendale School read, in part, “This year to ensure the safety and success of all students the district will supply each student with a clear backpack and school supplies. Students are required to only utilize the clear backpack provided for the 2023-2024 school year.”
“It is the expectation that every child, every day, have that clear bookbag,” Dr. Johnson said of these young students.
Dr. Johnson said that middle and high school students do not need to use clear backpacks, as they do go through metal detectors.
“They go through metal detectors, and they get everything checked, and they have SROs at the middle school and the high school, in addition to security officers,” she said.
Dr. Johnson said that the four elementary schools will also receive security officers, which she said are school district employees. Additionally, she said those four schools, plus the administration building, also received metal detectors, which she said will only be used for adults, not young students.
“We have four elementary schools, and so we have four entrances that will be utilized,” she said. “There’s one way in for individuals to come, so we have metal detectors at the entrances.”
While young students will not go through metal detectors, Dr. Johnson said if students have a non-paper or regular lunch box, they may be wanded.
"We understand the benefits of the clear backpacks in terms of being able to see them come and go, but I'm also concerned about the message that may be implied, especially to my 6 year old son, of ‘am I actually safe?’" said Laylah Allen, who has two young children in the district.
Allen said as a parent, she knows there’s a concern for safety in schools, but said she wished there was more transparency around how decisions were made surrounding the backpacks.
“I spoke to my kids about this, and there are sort of mixed feelings around it. There’s a sense of wanting more privacy,” Allen said. “I’m conflicted when we’re thinking about the backpacks.”
Allen, who is a youth mental health advocate, said she appreciates the district for taking safety measures, but also voiced concerns over young people potentially receiving implied messaging that they need to prove they are not a danger to the district.
“We’re going to do what it takes to keep our children safe at all costs, because I would hate to be able to have that conversation that we did not - we could have, we should have, we would have,” Dr. Johnson said.
Dr. Johnson said families can get the clear backpacks at Monday’s open house.