Middle and high school students in the Ferguson-Florissant School District will have to shove books, binders and calculators into clear backpacks as part of an overhauled security plan district officials announced Wednesday.
And all of Ferguson-Florissant’s 10,600 students will see more police and security officers when they arrive for the first day of school Thursday.
The district issued clear book bags to all sixth through 12th graders over the summer. The transparent bags are an attempt to reduce the number of weapons that have ended up on high school campuses. Last school year, district security officers recovered three firearms in backpacks after being tipped off by other students. None of the instances resulted in shots fired or injuries.
“The issue is safety and there are times that a search may be required, but it will depend on the circumstance,” Superintendent Joseph Davis said.
Students also received a small, non-transparent pouch to store personal items inside the bags. They will be able to decorate their nametags but not write on or decorate the bags.
“We want them to be individualized so they can have some of that autonomy,” Davis said.
The backpacks cost the district about $58,000. The school board authorized nearly doubling the district’s safety and security budget for the 2019-20 school year.
As part of the increased security, the district will now have four uniformed and armed police officers — also known as school resource officers — in its three high schools, up from one at each school. The number of resource officers at the middle school campuses will double to two. And all elementary schools will now have a uniformed but unarmed security guard where previously there was none.
“That’s about relationships; it’s about who our officers are, how our students see them when they see uniformed officers and building those relationships,” Davis said.
The additional security and police officers will cost about $1.5 million.
A task force formed by Gov. Mike Parson recommended earlier this month that all schools in Missouri have an armed staff member to protect against mass shootings and other violence. Ferguson-Florissant’s plan was being developed prior to the report being issued.
The school safety and security plan also increases focus on restorative discipline practices from punitive punishment, and social-emotional supports for students grappling with stress and trauma.
Ferguson-Florissant serves students living in nine north St. Louis County communities, including Berkeley and Kinloch.
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