UPDATE: The clear-backpack policy is history! Trustees voted 8-1 to rescind it.
Spearheaded by DISD board members Lew Blackburn and Ron Price, the clear backpack policy may well be history. Blackburn and Price were attending graduations and unable to vote when the policy was voted on the first time.
With words from DISD Board Trustee Jerome Garza championing it, the Board narrowly passed a new policy mandating clear backpacks for all students starting this fall.
If a student can't afford one, DISD will give them one.
Garza expressed concern that "83 percent [of the students in DISD] are on free or reduced [meal programs]." Garza then turned to DISD Associate Superintendent Ron Peace (filling in for Superintendent Michael Hinojosa) and told him that staff would be held to their pledge to furnish new backpacks to those who can't afford them--a clear indication that taxpayers may end up bearing the cost.
A brochure handed out at the board meeting titled: "Keep it Clear" explained that:
Starting in the fall, all backpacks and book bags must be clear plastic or mesh. Students who choose to carry a backpack or a book bag must ensure they are clear plastic or mesh. The use of these bags and packs will help speed up the process of entering the school each morning and help keep all Dallas ISD schools safe and secure.
Marsha Faram, a DISD parent, expressed concern over bag policy. "They don't hold up," Faram explained. Faram also worried that expensive items would be plainly visible, inviting theft--and that clear bags would give staff a false sense of security.
Faram's concerns were echoed by Trustee Carla Ranger who expressed worries over student privacy.
Their concerns may be valid--especially if the goal of the program is to "speed up the process" of screening them.
Items carried in the bags such as clothing, books and other smaller bags are not required to be clear meaning that prohibited items may be concealed and escape scrutiny.
A makeup bag or a pencil bag, for instance, might provide ample room for concealing anything someone wished to carry.
Since the screening process will be sped up, students may quickly figure out that their bag has a much smaller chance of being screened--which may lead to more contraband instead of less.
Cost to taxpayers may also be an issue. One estimate put the cost of the program between $1 and $2 million dollars annually.
In the end it didn't matter. Jerome Garza, Nancy Bingham, Edwin Flores and Board President Jack Lowe voted for the "Keep it Clear" policy.
Trustees Leigh Ann Ellis, Carla Ranger and Adam Medrano voted against it.