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East Rockaway students required to use clear backpacks

East Rockaway middle and high school students will

East Rockaway middle and high school students will now be required to use clear backpacks. Credit: East Rockaway school district

East Rockaway middle and high school students are now required to use clear backpacks, a new safety measure put in place in response to the Parkland, Florida, shooting.

East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School distributed the backpacks to 550 students in grades seven through 12 on Monday and Tuesday, interim Principal Neil Lederer said. Students must use them or no backpack at all while on school property during academic hours.

“It is a reaction and a result of what occurred in Florida,” Lederer said. “It’s another layer of protection. We want students to have the message that we are concerned about safety.”

On Feb. 14, 17 people were killed when a former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. When students returned to the school after spring break, they were required to use clear backpacks as a safety measure.

The Florida decision was controversial among community members and students there.

Lederer said clear backpacks had been discussed over the past several years, and East Roackaway district officials finally decided to purchase them after the Parkland shooting and the distribution of clear backpacks there.

The backpacks were purchased from Chicago-based manufacturer 4IMPRINT Inc. and cost $5.85 each, the district said. Officials purchased 600 of them with a custom school logo.

Lederer said he is not aware of other schools on Long Island purchasing clear backpacks.

So far, students and parents have been “very cooperative,” he said. Some backlash has occurred among students who don’t want to use the backpacks and are keeping their books and other belongings in their lockers throughout the day instead, he said.

A handful of clear backpacks have needed to be replaced because they broke when students overfilled them, he said.

“Any time you have to alter your routine, it takes a period of adjustment,” he said.

Lederer said the clear-backpack rule does not apply to sports bags, and officials are evaluating how they will handle concerts, plays and other large events in the future.

The backpack policy is one of several changes being made to school policy and described to parents in an April 10 letter. In the letter, district Superintendent Lisa Ruiz said the school also would be limiting visitor access to the building, to people who have appointments with a staff or faculty member.

Parents who will be dropping off items their children left at home will be asked to leave them in a bin near the front entrance, Ruiz wrote.

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