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GRPS reverses backpack ban, adopts other safety measures

Clear packs ‘recommended,’ not required

Grand Rapids — A ban on backpacks at Grand Rapids Public Schools has been lifted, and will not be in effect for the coming school year.

The school district announced in late July that it will once again allow backpacks on school grounds, ending a prohibition implemented on May 10 following four incidents involving guns confiscated from students.

GRPS heard community feedback on the issue and other safety concerns, and consulted with external experts to create a safety plan that would prioritize other safety measures.

The initial announcement of the ban indicated it would be in effect at least until the end of the 2022-23 school year. Leon Hendrix, the district’s executive director of communications and external affairs, said there are no plans to continue the ban in the coming school year, but GRPS would prefer students to use see-through bags when possible.

“We have recommended that our families choose clear backpacks to help monitor what’s going in and out,” Hendrix said.

The recommendation is just that — not a rule or requirement, though there’s a chance it could be in the future, depending on how things go in the new school year, which begins Aug. 22. However, at this point, GRPS is rescinding the ban and planning to focus its efforts on promoting safety in other ways. 

‘School safety is our top priority.’

— Superintendent Leadriane Roby

Random Weapons Searches Planned 

According to a July 24 statement, the district is in the process of conducting building assessments to “identify vulnerabilities” and determine ways to improve student safety at its facilities. 

GRPS also plans to perform random searches using weapon detectors. At this point, weapon detectors are “not yet slated for permanent installation,” the statement said.  

Other safety measures include: 

  • increasing “face-to-face violence prevention” interventions for students returning from expulsion; 
  • making social-emotional learning programs more available to students; 
  • partnering with Silent Observer to spread awareness of opportunities to anonymously report suspicious situations; 
  • providing additional training to staff and resources to parents; 
  • making crisis aftercare trainings available to GRPS team members, along with several other preventive measures.

The measures are part of an ongoing conversation about how to protect schools while providing a welcoming environment for students, GRPS leaders emphasized in the statement.  

“School safety is our top priority,” said Superintendent Leadriane Roby. “We know that our scholars cannot achieve the growth and learning they are capable of unless they feel safe in the learning environment. We took a comprehensive look at our safety procedures and will continue to adapt, learn, and change as necessary.”

Read the full district statement here

Read more from Grand Rapids:
Remember Their Names vigil honors those lost in school shootings
District moving forward with bond to reinvest in facilities

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Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley is a reporter covering Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids and Sparta school districts. An award-winning journalist, Riley spent eight years with the Ludington Daily News, reporting, copy editing, paginating and acting as editor for its weekly entertainment section. He also contributed to LDN’s sister publications, Oceana’s Herald-Journal and the White Lake Beacon. His reporting on issues in education and government has earned accolades from the Michigan Press Association and Michigan Associated Press Media Editors. Riley’s early work in journalism included a stint as an on-air news reporter for WMOM Radio, and work on the editorial staff of various student publications. Riley is a graduate of Grand Valley State University. He originally hails from western Washington.


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