LAURENS, S.C. (WSPA) – Laurens School District 55 is implementing new safety measures for students this fall.
The district is requiring students to use clear backpacks and is installing new metal detectors at Laurens High School.
“We’re just trying to make and kind of chose as many different strategies that we can to make our schools safer,” said Dr. Jody Penland, the assistant superintendent for student services.
Dr. Penland said mesh or colored transparent bags will not be allowed. There are some exceptions to the updated policy for things like lunch boxes, small purses or pouches smallers than 6″ by 9″. There’s also an exception for bags used for extracurricular activities, like band or athletics. District leaders said all bags are subject to searches by law enforcement and activity bags will need to be stored in lockers or designated areas during the school day.
“We really looked at the different types of things that would allow us to truly see in the bags. Whenever you look at the different tints, if it’s a dark tint like a window tint, it kind of cut down on the visibility,” said Penland.
Dr. Penland said this policy adds an additional layer of security.
“It’s just one more way to really deter people from bringing items in through their bookbags. We know they could still have them on their person, but that’s why we’re also doing the metal detectors,” said Penland.
At the high school level, new metal detectors are being installed and will be in place this fall. He said they hope to eventually add metal detectors at the middle schools too. Earlier this year, the district also started a fundraiser for K-9 article dogs to help detect weapons on campuses.
“We’ll have several entrances that we allow kids to come through and they’ll hit those probably four main entrances each day as they enter the school and go through that security check,” said Penland.
In February, a six-year-old student brought a loaded gun to Laurens Elementary. Days later, a gun was also found in a high school student’s backpack. Dr. Penland said these new security measures could help mitigate future incidents.
“It probably will not narrow down the number of threats because people can say, they can still text, they can still put stuff on social media, but it’s the deterrence of bringing anything in,” said Penland.
District leaders said teachers and staff will not be required to use clear bags. Leaders are also looking at the district’s visitor policy to determine what bags guests will be able to bring. Dr. Penland said clear bags will be available for students who cannot afford one.