BCPS Mandates Clear Backpacks for the 2023/2024 School Year

Effective August 21, 2023, only clear backpacks and bags (purses, duffel bags, fanny packs, lunch boxes, etc.) will be allowed on Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) campuses for students in grades pre-K – 12.

BCPS’s stated purpose of this requirement is to “add an additional layer of safety across the District and provide added safeguards for our students, staff, and faculty. While backpacks are not mandatory, they must be clear, and all contents within the backpack must be visible.”  

Clear backpacks have been used as a measure to improve school safety by allowing school officials and security personnel to quickly and easily inspect the contents of students’ backpacks. The idea behind clear backpacks is that they can help deter students from bringing weapons or other dangerous items to school, as they know they can be easily seen.

However, the effectiveness of clear backpacks in improving school safety has never been proven. Some argue that clear backpacks are a superficial solution that doesn’t address the root causes of school violence, and that they can create a false sense of security. 

Critics also point out that clear backpacks can be stigmatizing and create privacy concerns for students who may feel uncomfortable having their personal belongings on display for others to see at all times. Others argue that transparent backpacks make valuable items like iPads and laptop computers more vulnerable to theft.

In a 2022 article, Dan Semenza, an assistant professor of criminal justice and director of interpersonal violence research at the Rutgers University-based New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center was skeptical of the clear backpack approach. “There is no evidence that clear backpacks do anything to improve student safety,” Semenza said. “However, studies show that students hate this policy.”

The new policy applies to students only and does include several exceptions. These include:

  • A small non-transparent pouch for personal hygiene items.
  • Thermal food containers carried inside clear lunch boxes.
  • School-approved sport-specific carrying case for athletic equipment.
  • School-approved instrument-specific carrying case for band equipment.