After 3 student arrests, backpack policy to change in Charles Co. schools

Administrators discovered a loaded gun in the student's book bag. He also had a container of marijuana-infused brownies. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)(Getty Images/iStockphoto/Drew Bloksberg)
Charles County Public Schools is making a change to improve security.

Starting next Wednesday, April 24, all middle and high school students will have to keep their backpacks in their lockers during the entire school day.

They won’t be able to carry them from class to class or to lunch and principals will make sure students have enough time to get to their lockers between classes.

The rule is already in place at several middle and high schools.

The school district’s director of safety and security, Jason Stoddard, said at a Tuesday night meeting for parents that they looked into the possibility of allowing students to carry clear backpacks from class to class. Ultimately, they decided that wouldn’t work.

“Because as soon as you put a piece a paper or a book or something like that [inside], the idea that they’re transparent goes away,” he said.

A letter to parents from Superintendent Kimberly Hill reads: “The new rule allows students to carry a small personal bag, with or without a handle or strap and no larger than the size of a hand.”

The change in backpack policy comes after the recent arrests of three La Plata high school students for separate incidents.

A 14-year-old and a 16-year-old were charged with bringing loaded guns to school, and a 17-year-old is accused of posting on social media that a school shooting would happen last Friday. It was false rumor, but caused a lot of fear.

“We had 550 kids that missed school on Friday, because someone decided it would be funny to post something on Snapchat,” said Stoddard.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Junior Madelyn Mudd described the fear she and other students felt on Friday. She also thinks school leaders didn’t give students and teachers enough information about how the school was responding to the rumor.

“Students were literally walking on the sides of the hallways, because they wanted to stay close to the doors in case something happened. You didn’t see the panic in students’ eyes. You didn’t see how hurt our teachers were when they realized what was happening. If that’s what you call a safe place, then I want to see what a dangerous place looks like,” she said.

“We work every day to improve the safety and security of our schools and centers,” said Hill in her letter to parents. “We have adopted a number of new rules, created an anonymous safety reporting tool on the CCPS website, added more emergency training for staff and increased background checks and training for substitutes, volunteers and temporary and new employees.”

Read more about the school district’s safety and security changes here.

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Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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