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Okemos High School’s controversial backpack policy raises eyebrows

Okemos High School’s controversial backpack policy raises eyebrows
Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 10:20 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Oxford High School students returned to classes Monday, but at the district’s middle school.

Oxford High School remains closed while it undergoes some construction.

Related: Oxford schools will require clear backpacks for middle, high school students

The transition is designed to be slow to help ease students and teachers back into the building. The Nov. 30 shooting that left four dead has one Michigan school changing its policy on backpacks.

In an effort to keep people safe, beginning Jan. 24, Okemos High School students will no longer be allowed to carry backpacks or bags in the building.

School officials said the policy was made to improve school safety, but some parents said the new policy is infringing on the students’ freedom.

For Okemos students, the semester is coming to an end as they prepare for their exams, but when they return to class next semester, a new policy proposal could require them to leave their backpacks behind.

“It just adds frustration to what they’re already dealing with this pandemic,” said parent Adele Bliss.

Related: MDHHS updates COVID vaccine guidelines after review of CDC changes

If enforced, Okemos High School students would be required to keep their backpack in their lockers at all time. They would only be allowed to carry items needed for class in the hallways and in the classrooms.

School officials said the policy change was made to improve school safety, but one parent told News 10 she doesn’t think that’s the case.

“It really is just one more infringement on our students regular activities and one more accommodation they have to deal with,” Bliss said. “With everything going on, that’s just really unnecessary. Taking away backpacks isn’t going to prevent anything from happening.”

Bliss is the parent of two Okemos students. She said she’s been pleased with Okemos’ safety policies in the past, but this time, removing backpacks isn’t the right move.

“In general, Okemos is pretty good at looking out for their students,” Bliss said. “I believe that safety is a big concern for them. But I just don’t feel like this would really be that effective in what they’re trying to achieve.”

Others have echoed those thoughts. A petition was started by students at Okemos High School to keep backpacks has gathered more than 700 students.

Students also spoke in front of the Okemos School Board to address their concerns. School officials said they recognize the major transition it would be for students and that they are in the process of creating a transition plan to help their students with the change.

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