Students at Triad High School may not be able to carry their backpacks with them in school.
Superintendent Vickie Hoffman said she’s discussing with high school principal Kyle Huffman and student resource officer (SRO) Deputy Tim Morris about a possible procedure change to the student handbook that would restrict students from bringing their backpacks to class. She said the change would mean students would have to leave their backpacks in their lockers.
“This was for safety purposes, and not having kids with book bags with things that could be concealed,” Hoffman said. “They will be put into lockers so they cannot conceal other things.”
This change would also include padlocks with dials on each student’s locker.
Hoffman said Triad is the only district in Champaign County that still allows backpacks.
She said Morris brought the idea to her after he thought the procedure change would be implemented under former superintendent Chris Piper a year ago.
“(Morris) had been to lots of training for SROs and talked to other officers in other districts, and I would say there are probably less schools carrying them,” Hoffman said. “It wasn’t because of a situation, it was just basically things that are happening all over the world, and not just Triad.”
Hoffman said “we have not approached other ideas.” She said the idea of clear backpacks would be negatively received by parents “who already bought backpacks this year.” She said the focus has been instead on training staff and families on safety.
With how this will impact students’ lives at school, she said “it will just make students feel safer when they can’t conceal things in their book bags.”
Hoffman said there’s concern and praise for this initiative. She said people are worried about other things that will be restricted, like cell phones.
She said there hasn’t been a decision made on cell phones yet.
“We are doing all we can to ensure the safety of all students,” Hoffman said. “We’re not going to do anything that isn’t well-thought through and is what we know is in the best interest of children.”
She said staff will begin ALICE training — which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate and is used to teach and train schools on how to handle active shooter situations — next year for the middle and high schools. There will be books supplied to elementary school students about safety drills.
She said by the end of next year, she wants to see the high school practice a safety drill that features various police and emergency workers. She said it’ll imitate a “catastrophe scenario,” like tornados, fires or active shooters.
The superintendent said there are safety drills the school will continue to perform, but “the larger one where you actually have a mock catastrophe” will be performed too. The difference between these two drills will be the involvement of outside agencies. It will be conducted once every two to four years.
“In a catastrophe, you would have a lot of other agencies in the district, so you’re almost learning how to work well together,” she said.
Hoffman said she’s done this kind of drill for the North Union Local School District. She was an assistant principal, then principal, of North Union Elementary School, and served as the district’s Chief Academic Officer.
She said it helped her practice how to solidify a plan in the event of an active shooter.
“It’s a great learning experience to see the things you really don’t think about until you’re in that situation,” Hoffman said. “Every administrator will be involved.”
Currently, duffel bags and athletic equipment are to be placed in lockers and are prohibited from being brought to class.
She said Huffman has met with the high school’s student congress and discussed this procedure change with them.
In an email, she wrote students groups began installing locks on unused lockers Tuesday, and will eventually be placed on lockers in use.
Students will be given time to practice using the new locks, and after Christmas break, they will begin putting their backpacks in their lockers, according to Hoffman.
She said Huffman will discuss this handbook change at this month’s board of education meeting.
“No changes are happening, besides adding locks, until it is approved by the board of education,” the superintendent wrote.
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