Dallas Independent School District (DISD) announced this week that, beginning this Fall 2022 semester, all 6th-12th grade students must use clear or mesh backpacks designed to deter students from bringing illegal items such as guns to class.
Corporate media coverage of DISD’s new policy claims the change was recommended by DISD’s Safety Task Force and Internal Task Force following the Uvalde school shooting in May when 19 students and two teachers lost their lives.
It’s hard to imagine that DISD’s backpack policy will solve any problems or even gain popularity throughout the Lone Star State. While several Texas school districts have implemented similar changes, the clear-backpack policies have become targets for teenage taunting and concerns about privacy. That’s why Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which suffered a fatal shooting in 2018, dropped its clear-bag policy just a few months after introducing it.
This new backpack policy might deter current students from smuggling illicit materials into school, but it won’t solve any of the problems present in the Uvalde tragedy. First of all, the Uvalde shooter was not a student at the school he targeted. Second, the DISD backpack policy applies only to middle- and high-school students, not younger students like the kids at Robb Elementary.
Additionally, a new report from the Texas House of Representatives found that “systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making” by both law enforcement and school officials are to blame for the shooting in Uvalde. Neither of those problems — “systemic failures” and “egregiously poor decision making” — will be fixed by the security theater of clear backpacks.
To some degree, DISD acknowledges that. But the district’s assurances that it knows “backpacks alone will not eliminate safety concerns” are not enough.
The district claims backpacks are “merely one of several steps in the district’s comprehensive plan to better ensure student and staff safety,” but unless that comprehensive plan includes hardening schools, DISD’s efforts to protect students and teachers are futile.
As Federalist Senior Editor David Harsanyi noted in a column earlier this week: “Most planned mass shootings target gun-free zones where there is no one to stop them until the police arrive.”
“It is impossible, unless one is a mind-reader, to quantify how often the presence of good guys with guns dissuades murders. It is likely that shooters, suicidal or not, prefer soft targets that allow them to make the most gruesome impact, which is one reason I simply can’t understand why we wouldn’t want to train (willing) teachers to use firearms,” Harsanyi continued.
Shooters target the vulnerable. And what is more vulnerable than a classroom filled with teachers and students who have no means to defend themselves against someone with bad intentions? Especially if the police wait more than an hour to act.
Good guys with guns and strict security measures do deter and stop bad guys. It’s happened over and over and over and over. Yet, anti-gun activists are strongly opposed to letting anyone, especially teachers, carry in the classroom. Democrats have also repeatedly rejected legislation designed to fund and codify security overhauls in U.S. public schools that would keep students from being sitting ducks.
Even the media like to complain about hardening schools. One Texas Tribune article published in May dared to claim that Texas state initiatives designed to beef up security in schools “didn’t save Uvalde.” The problem with that? Uvalde was not a hardened school, nor town, as seen by the countless failures of law enforcement officers.
A school building with adequate security infrastructure wouldn’t fail to lock doors. It would have a heavily monitored single point of entry. A school building that does not have armed teachers nor a competent, armed security guard capable of taking out the shooter before he even enters a building is severely underprepared to handle any threats.
Even though Texas has taken some steps to encourage schools to enact more security measures, most districts like DISD strongly dissuade and sometimes even explicitly prohibit school officials from carrying guns on school property for self-defense. That needs to change.
If Uvalde taught us anything, it’s that schools can’t risk waiting around for law enforcement to neutralize a fatal threat. School districts like DISD must stop focusing on security theater such as backpacks and start investing the time and resources they used to buy every student in the district a clear bag into ramping up security for worst-case scenarios.