Mt. Vernon’s Classroom Backpack Policy: Staff, Student, and Adminsitration’s Opinions

Hannah Elstro, MVC writer

Mt. Vernon’s backpack policy, as directly stated from the handbook, reads: “For safety reasons, all backpacks, athletic bags, medium and large purses, totes, and other bags should be stored in lockers throughout the day.” Is this ban really necessary, though? How does the student body feel about it? I interviewed several student members, staff members, and a member of the administration to find out their views, opinions, and the reasoning behind Mt. Vernon’s backpack policy.

The first person interviewed was Mt. Vernon’s vice principal, Mr. Wilkison. 


Q: Why is there a policy against backpacks in classrooms?


A: Mr. Wilkinson- “There are two main reasons. One, some of our classrooms are at capacity, 30+ students, so having backpacks means that staff and students can’t walk around the classroom as it gets very congested. The other [reason] is just safety. Those are two primary reasons, and [the administration] did a survey three or four years ago where we asked staff their stance, and it was very one-sided in terms of whether or not they wanted backpacks [in classrooms].”


Q: Has the administration felt that the backpack policy has done anything, positive or negative?


A: Mr. Wilkinson- “It’s very hard to monitor or track that data. We could go back to the year prior to backpacks being banned in the classrooms and compare; we have not done that.”


Q: Has the administration seen the policy affect the student body at all?


A: Wilkinson- ‘Not that I’m aware of. I’m not a student walking class to class, but I know that for one you’re gonna need your chromebook. A lot of our materials are online, so I know some students that just need a chromebook to take […] to each block. But we only have four blocks, we don’t have seven periods a day, so you’re not carrying eight books, either. So really, from that perspective also I don’t feel that there is a need for backpacks [in the classroom].” 


Q: Has there been any pushback against the policy from the students?


A: Wilkinson- “No, not really. … We have great students here at Mt. Vernon who adhere to our expectations and policies and procedures.”


Q: If a student were to break the policy, how would they be punished for it?


A: Wilkinson- “So if a student takes a backpack [into a classroom], it would be no different than wearing a hat or being late to class, it’s a lower level offense for the first couple times… But if they continue, then at some point, if I have given a student a directive to not do something, such as take a backpack [into the classroom], then it becomes more of an insubordination [issue] and disciplinary actions would be progressive in those circumstances.” 


Q: Is there anything you would like to say to the students who don’t necessarily like the policy?


A: Wilkinson- “Well, I would just like them to hopefully understand that it’s not just because we want to ban backpacks and have something else to monitor, and [that this is for] the safety of the students. [I would also like them to know that] their safety is hopefully the top priority for all the staff and that avoiding congestion in the hallways and classrooms is necessary. If there are 30 plus backpacks in a classroom, it would be challenging to maneuver around the classroom.”


Q: Has the administration taken any precautions to help students who have a hard time getting to their lockers?


A: Wilkinson- “Well, you bring up a good point, and that’s one reason why we increased the passing period […] from five minutes to six so students could easily access their lockers, and I know that [the administration has] experimented with that in terms of walking from the two furthest points in the building […] and walking back and six minutes is ample time.”


  The next interviews came from the teachers, who are the ones who usually enforce and deal with the policy on a daily basis. The teachers interviewed were each a part of different departments so a variety of opinions would be included. The teachers interviewed were Mrs. Glazner, in the foreign languages department; Mr. Zelencik, in the science department; Mrs. Leavell, in the English department; Mr. Cepluch, in the math department; Mrs. Evans, in the art department; and Mr. Quinton, in the history department.


Q: What are your opinions on the school’s backpack policy?


Mrs. Glazner- “I think there are some benefits to the backpack policy because a lot of our classrooms have a lot of students and once there are a lot of students in a classroom it can be difficult for the teacher to be able to walk around and help the students adequately without tripping. However, I think with the new cases it makes the chromebooks heavier and then to add the books onto it? I can see why the students are a little frustrated, not being able to have a bag to carry everything. So I can kind of see both sides.” 

Mr. Zelencik- “I like it. Being a science teacher, we have students up and moving around a lot in the lab, so when we have the backpacks they tend to make their way to the floor and it becomes a tripping hazard, so I agree with [the policy].”

Mrs. Leavell- “I think it’s good. We just don’t have enough space for them and I don’t think there’s a reason that kids need to have a full backpack in class.”

Mr. Cepluch- “I think it is appropriate to limit potential threats, because it would be easy to conceal some kind of weapon in a bag such as that; however, I can also see the use that students might need to have something other than their arms to carry things between classes, and I’m not sure how best to thread that needle.”

Mrs. Evans- “I understand [the policy] because a lot of our classrooms [here at Mt. Vernon] are small on space, [backpacks] can be a tripping hazard, and it’s also a safety issue with having large objects in the room that you don’t necessarily need.”

Mr. Quinton- “I support the backpack policy just because I think safety and other concerns override the convenience of having a backpack.”


Q: Do you feel the ban is effective in keeping clutter out of rooms and keeping the school safe?


A: Mrs. Glazner- “I think it depends on if teachers are effectively implementing [the policy].”

Mrs. Evans- “We used to have [backpacks in classrooms], so if I’m thinking back from when we allowed them versus now, yes, it’s much better without them.”

Mr. Quinton- “Definitely, especially just in my room specifically we move around somewhat and I think it keeps people from tripping or doing other things that can cause a distraction and a safety hazard just because of the huge backpacks all over the room.”


Every other teacher simply  responded “yes.”


Q: Have you experienced much student pushback against the ban?


A: Mrs. Glazner- “Yeah, because I’ve had to ask students to put their backpacks back in their lockers and they’ve seemed frustrated with [having to put their bags away].”

Mr. Zelencik- “No, students have been pretty agreeable with it.”

Mrs. Leavell- “Always, yes.”

Mr. Cepluch- “I can’t say that I have. I mean, occasionally I’ll hear a student say that they’ve got a lot and it would be easier to have a bag, but again I think that the positives outweigh the negatives in that case.”

Mrs. Evans- “Not particularly bookbags, but other large bags. I think making the size and type very clear on what is okay and what’s not would help [staff and students].”

Mr. Quinton- “I have not experienced a lot but sometimes I hear comments.”


Q: If you could change the ban in any way, would you?


A: Mrs. Glazner- “I think a compromise would be beneficial for both the students and the teachers and I think it could create a better community for everybody.”

Mr. Zelencik- “Nope.”

Mrs. Leavell- “No, I think the rule is great and that we should keep it.”

Mr. Cepluch- “I don’t see how I could without compromising safety issues.”

Mrs. Evans- “No, but I think if there was a way to just … I don’t know, it’s hard because there’s different circumstances for each person as to why they might need it or not need it; some people just want it because it’s convenient for them but they can manage without it. It’s a complicated answer.”

Mr. Quinton- “No.”


Lastly, I interviewed students. Three people were interviewed from each grade, to get a variety of views from students in different grades. Current seniors, the class of 2023, were the only ones to actually experience a time where backpacks were allowed. The other classes have had the backpack policy since they arrived at the high school. In certain questions, answers will be omitted from students who just answered “no” or “yes” with an indication of what they chose. 


The students interviewed included Nova Sanders (12), Kenedi Morgan (12), Jayson Bitner (12), Jocelynn Calderon (11), Chloe Albright (11), Isaiah Niau (11), Sara Eddinger (10), Will Smith (10), Gabe Marlow (10), Megan Jones (9), Zoe Boyd (9), and Malonne’a Sample (9).


Q: What are your opinions on the school’s backpack policy?


A: Nova (12)- “Personally, me, I think it’s kind of … I don’t think it’s stupid, but I think they should bring [backpacks in classrooms] back, with the exception that they be checked when we walk in. They should add metal detectors … because some people like to carry around purses or small bags or tote bags because it makes it easier to carry your stuff around school rather than keeping it in your hands, because I’ve had the experience of dropping stuff before, so they need to bring [backpacks being allowed in classrooms] back.”

Kenedi (12)- “I think it’s pretty silly, actually, because not every person has time to get to their locker in between classes and some people have very heavy books to carry around, and it’s just easier to have a backpack.”

Jayson (12)- “I think it’s ridiculous, honestly.”

Jocelynn (11)- “I think it’s stupid because I hate having to go to my locker in between classes and sometimes it makes me late.”

Chloe (11)- “I understand that it’s for safety, because school shootings and bringing stuff to school have been really big issues. … But it is just really inconvenient just because if I forget something for a class that’s really annoying, and at the end of the day I have to go to my locker and then my car and that can take a long time, but I understand why we have it.”

Isaiah (11)- “I think it’s pointless, simply because if I remember correctly my teachers said the reason why they got banned in the first place was because they were in the middle of the hall or the walkway but you could just move [the backpack], and it just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Sara (10)- “I think that [the policy] shouldn’t be in place.”

Will (10)- “I think they [should get rid of the policy] because that’s how everybody keeps their stuff organized.”

Gabe (10)- ‘It’s dumb; I don’t like it. People should be able to wear backpacks.” 

Megan (9)- “I get it, but I don’t always like it.”

Zoe (9)- “I get like backpacks and stuff, but bags other than purses? Tote bags and other smaller bags are just so much easier, so [I understand backpacks but] I don’t get why they ban the other bags. Like, they can check my small bags, but at least let me have them.” 

Malonne’a (9)- “I think [the ban] is ridiculous. I am livid about the ban.”


Q: Do you feel the ban is effective in keeping clutter out of classrooms and keeping the school safe?


A: Nova (12)- “No. Because people still put their stuff on the floor, all in the isle, feet are in the isle [still]… just no. People still bring [prohibited items] to school even though we don’t have backpacks. So no, it’s not helping.”

Kenedi (12)- “No. I feel like [for the] keeping the school safe thing, we just need to do other things within the administration and school rules to keep us safe rather than the backpacks. I think [the policy] doesn’t help as much as we think it does.”

Jayson (12)- “No, because honestly it just makes it a lot more difficult for some students to carry around some stuff because they drop some stuff because they don’t have it secure, [and so] everything just goes everywhere and just makes [passing periods] a lot more difficult.” 

Jocelynn (11)- “I think the clutter yes, but keeping the school safe no. … I feel like we wear sweatshirts, a lot of people have cars, if they wanted to bring something in, I feel like there’s a lot of other ways they could. So I feel like not having a bag doesn’t really stop someone from actually wanting to hurt us. But clutter, yeah, it’s easier to walk.”

Chloe (11)- “I kind of think so, I agree with that just because I would say backpacks can be like a tripping hazard or they can take up too much space or you can put stuff in them and take them to class but I feel like you could still put stuff in … pencil pouches too.”

Isaiah (11)- “I mean, there are less things to trip over, but in terms of security no… I don’t think it does anything if it was in effect or not.”

Sara (10)- “No, because if [any sort of weapon is] in a backpack then it’s only in a backpack, [not in a classroom.]”

Will (10)- “Yes and no. People have all their stuff with them, so they’re ready to go anytime.”

Gabe (10)- “I mean in a sense, yes, [the policy works], but it would be more efficient to get to class [if the policy was not in place].”

Megan (9)- “I don’t think it has done a lot [for the clutter], but I definitely think it has kept the school safer.”

Zoe (9)- “In some cases, but I feel that if a student wants to [bring something harmful] into school they find ways to do it.” 

Malonne’a (9)- “Well, I’ve known people who’ve brought [banned items] to school, so no.”


Q: Have you ever had any times you wished the ban was not in place or any trouble with the ban for any reason? If so, why?


A: Nova (12)- “Yes, because I’m tired of dropping my stuff in the hallways. I’m walking up the stairs, [and] BAM, something hits the floor; you’re walking down the hallways, a water bottle hits the floor, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve dropped my pencil pouch. I’m tired of it. They need to bring [backpacks] back. Or at least let us have tote bags.”

Kenedi (12)-“Yeah, there’s been times where I had a gym class and then I had a class all the way upstairs and there was no time to bring anything, and [so] I ended up getting in trouble because I didn’t bring my books with me when I would’ve been late if I hadn’t just gone.”

Jayson (12)- “Well, sometimes I get to school [a little later], and I have to go to my locker and put my backpack in my locker and it’ll make me late for class, so it would just be a lot easier to just go straight to class with my backpack.”

Jocelynn (11)- “Yeah, definitely. Like going to my locker, back and forth to classes, [because] sometimes I’ll have a class on the other end from my locker and I’ll have to go back and forth and it makes me late, so it’s really stressful.”

Chloe (11)- “Yeah, just because for classes, like for example our AP Lit books are really heavy or at the end of the day if I have somewhere I want to get to I have to go to my locker, or if I have multiple bags, like a bag for sports and my lunch bag and my school bag trying to fit all of that all of that in my locker is pretty hard.”

Isaiah (11)- “No, but I do get tired of carrying around a bunch of stuff for my second block because I have a lot and it can be a hassle.”

Megan (9)- “Not really, sometimes it can be rough to have to go upstairs, downstairs, back and forth, but it’s not impossible.”

Zoe (9)- “I don’t know, I mean I try to carry my stuff around because it’s easier but I’ve been around when other people have been asked to put their backpacks away and I’m like, ‘wow, like that is so stupid, just ask if they have anything in their backpack.’”

The answers omitted included three people saying ‘yes’ and one saying ‘no.’


Q: Have you experienced any pushback against the ban from other students?


A: Nova (12)- “Yes. I’ve seen so many kids take their bags back to their locker just because they brought it into a classroom. … It doesn’t matter! We still have pockets, we can still bring stuff if we wanted to.”

Kenedi (12)- “I hear a lot of students complaining about the ban and wishing that they just had their bags to carry around.”

Jayson (12)- “Yeah, I used to hear [about students not liking the ban] a lot, but it’s gotten to the point now where students don’t really mind it all that much. But when it was first put into place, yeah.”

Jocelynn (11)- “Oh yeah, I feel like everybody hates it; everybody complains about it.”

Chloe (11)- “I think that some people complain about it because it’s inconvenient, but also at the same time I feel like it’s been integrated as such a part of the school experience that it’s kind of normal now.”

Isaiah (11)- “[I’ve only really felt it] when they started banning our gym bags, that made no sense to me at all. Like, you expect us to carry our smelly clothes from class to class?”

Megan (9)- “A little bit. It’s talked about a lot in some of my classes.”

Malonne’a (9)- “Yes, I‘ve heard things, but also I am livid and done and want to start a petition to get rid of [the policy].”


Three of the people omitted answered yes and one answered no.