Middle school students in Aldine ISD are banned from bringing backpacks to their campuses or buses for the remainder of the academic year, adding the Houston-area district to the growing number of schools across the state and the country that have adopted such a policy in the interest of safety.
Assistant Superintendent of Middle Schools LaTonia Amerson, in a Sunday letter to students' parents and guardians that was shared by Aldine ISD, wrote that "increased altercations and incidents on campuses" prompted the backpack ban, which took effect Monday. The school district in a statement also cited a "historical rise of social media threats" during the tail end of school years.
The backpack ban applies only to the 13 middle schools in Aldine ISD and not to the elementary and high schools in the district, according to Aldine ISD spokesperson Mike Keeney. The district serves part of North Houston.
"Our decision was not taken lightly and is just one step in an ongoing conversation about how we can best protect students in our rapidly changing world," Amerson wrote in her letter. "You will also see increased visibility of law enforcement in and around the schools due to various end-of-year activities and increased visitors on campus."
Uvalde Consolidated School District to the west of San Antonio, where 19 elementary students and two teachers were massacred on campus last May by a teenage gunman, implemented a backpack ban for this week, citing an increase in "non-credible social media threats." Southwest ISD in San Antonio prohibited backpacks for the same reason earlier this month, according to a report by KENS5 in San Antonio.
Elsewhere in Texas, DeSoto ISD in the Dallas area banned all its middle school and high school students from carrying backpacks on campus. Public schools in Grand Rapids, Michigan, also are reportedly prohibiting the use of backpacks after a loaded handgun was found in the backpack of a third-grader earlier this year.
Middle school students in Aldine ISD are not allowed to bring backpacks into any district facility or on any district school bus, although lunch boxes and small clutches or pencil bags are still permitted.
Keeney said students are allowed to wear hoodies – contrary to a Sunday social media post by the account for Aldine Middle School – and there are no changes to the district's dress code.
"As the school year wraps up, the need for supplies and textbooks naturally decrease, and students are encouraged to bring only the essential items needed for classroom activities," Aldine ISD said in its statement.