PARKLAND – Marjory Stoneman Douglas High created a new environment Monday, with clear backpacks, bag searches, I.D. lanyards, police officers at every entrance and a Students body skeptical that any of it will make them safer.
District officials say Stoneman Douglas, the site of a Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17, is serving as a pilot for possible districtwide security changes. Some schools already have more cops on campus, and dozens are now armed with AR-15 rifles. The district says it’s expediting plans to provide fencing and gates at about 100 schools.
The district limited the number of places students could enter Stoneman Douglas in the morning to four, with guards stationed at each spot. Metal-detecting wands weren’t being used Monday but are being considered, officials said.
“This is still being explored by the district. No decision or date has been set for the use of metaldetection wands,” district spokeswoman Cathleen Brennan said.
The new precautions didn’t prevent the school from receiving an emailed bomb threat Monday, which the Broward Sheriff’s Office determined to be unfounded.
“The BSO bomb squad responded and swept the school with negative results,” Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Keyla Concepcion said. “Additional deputies were placed on campus as a precaution. The investigation is ongoing.”
On Monday, the first day back from spring break, administrators handed out clear backpacks – the only ones allowed at the school for the time being, officials say. The school confiscated non-clear backpacks, returning them to students at the end of the day.
Band instruments and sports equipment were left with teachers and coaches. Students were also given lanyards to hold photo identification cards, which they’ll be required to wear at all times.
Some students compared their school to an airport, others to a prison. Few voiced support for the changes.
“Do you want me to take my shoes off when I walk into school as well?” tweeted Carly Novell, a senior at the school and editor of the Eagle Eye student newspaper.
Ariana Lopez, a junior at the school tweeted, “First member of my family to be in prison oh wait. I’m in school, sorry, can’t tell the difference without my glasses.”
On Monday morning, many students entered the campus carrying plastic grocery bags containing their books and other belongings. Students reported a number of bag searches by school officials.
“Got my brown paper lunch bag checked today while walking to class. Lady saw my sandwich and figured it wasn’t a threat,” tweeted Christy Ma, an Eagle Eye editor.
The police presence was heavy Monday and will remain so at least until the end of the school year, officials say. Gov. Rick Scott is providing up to eight Florida Highway Patrol officers to guard the school, and extra Broward Sheriff’s deputies and district police officers are also stationed there.
The backpacks were donated by Walmart and the Broward Education Foundation. Many students posted photos of them on Twitter, along with sarcastic comments.
On social media, particularly Twitter, many students were showing off their backpack hacks, or the ways in which they’ve managed to personalize their new school bags.
Many of the students used their new backpacks to make a statement, with the inference being that trying to reduce gun violence with transparent plastic backpacks was ridiculous, and for some, insulting.
“Clear backpacks are stupid,” one student wrote on a sheet of paper he was displaying from the inside of his backpack.
Others were attaching the $1.05 price tag used by some students to protest Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
“When you take 3,140,167, the number of students enrolled in Florida schools, and divide it by $3,303,355, the amount of money Marco Rubio has received from the National Rifle Association, it comes out to $1.05,” student Sarah Chadwick said in her speech at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington on March 24.
Other students saw some humor in the situation. Alex Wind, one of the #NeverAgain leaders, tweeted a clip of an amped-up Oprah Winfrey. It was an obvious reference to Oprah’s famous practice of giving away expensive stuff to audience members on her daytime talk show.
Yet another student drew a pair of crying eyes with “Prisoner #0612074413” written in red and blue marker on the backpack. That number isn’t random, though. It’s actually her student number.
Another enterprising student used his to advertise the fact he’s on the market. “I AM SINGLE,” a sheet of paper inside the backpack reads. All caps.
One student complained about the smell of her bag, comparing it to “the inflatable pool toys when they’re immediate taken out of the box.” Another said the bags are bound to get mixed up when everyone has the same one.
Student activist Jaclyn Corin accessorized her bag with buttons that said, “Vote,” “March for Our Lives,” and “MSDStrong.”
“They should’ve been given to a school that actually needs the supplies,” she tweeted. “But since we’re stuck with them, I decided to make the most out of the situation & decorate!”
Delaney Tarr, who has been a leader in the student movement to fight for tighter gun laws, tweeted, “Starting off the last quarter of senior year right, with a good ol’ violation of privacy!”
Kyrah Simon, a 17-year-old junior, questioned the benefits of the clear backpacks. “I think it’s the illusion of security, and it’s not going to accomplish anything, except make students feel like their privacy is being violated,” Simon told the Sun Sentinel Monday.
Holden Kasky, 16, a ninth-grader with autism and the brother of student activist Cameron Kasky, hand-wrote a letter to Superintendent Robert Runcie asking the district to reconsider the backpack rule. He said it makes his fellow students uncomfortable, particularly girls who may carry feminine products.
“I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable or judged,” he wrote in the letter his father Jeff posted on Twitter. “If you really want to bring a weapon to school, you’ll (still) be able to hide it.”