'No backpack' rule prompts West Kings walkout
BY NANCY KELLY
Kings County Register
A group of students walked out of West Kings and off the school property October 3 to protest a backpack policy now being enforced.
The issue of students carrying backpacks first surfaced at West Kings several years ago, when students were told they had to leave their backbacks in lockers and could not carry them to class. Since then, the rules have been relaxed but, when students came back to class this September, they were informed the “no backpack” rule would be strictly enforced, starting in October.
About 70 students, all of whom thought the ruling unfair, walked out of classes as a show of opposition to the policy. School administrators were kept busy throughout the school day monitoring the students’ demonstration, which took place on the south side of Highway 1, across from the school. RCMP were called in midday to help control the crowd.
AVRSB’s superintendent of schools Norman Dray reported two students were suspended for defiance of authority as a result. The school principal was planning to meet with students who still wanted to discuss the issue October 6. “The students were encouraged to bring their concerns forward,” said Dray, who added the walkout came as a surprise to the administration. “There was no warning given that students intended to take any action.”
Dray said the school’s decision to ban backbacks from the halls and classrooms addresses security issues. “Backpacks are cumbersome items and, when they are lying around, they impede safe access to classroom and hallway exits.”
He confirmed the fire marshall’s office agreed banning the items from halls and classrooms would improve safety in the school. He added the policy also addresses other safety and security issues. “Frankly, we don’t know what is inside a student’s knapsack. There could be prohibited items or substances.”
Dray said the West Kings administration “thought this out carefully” by engaging the student’s council in the process and by giving students plenty of time to prepare for the policy change. “With the (school) renovation now complete, there is no need for students to be hauling their
backpacks around. Personally, I don’t think it is a hardship for them to go back and forth to lockers throughout the day,” said Dray. He said, most importantly, the administration has taken appropriate action to create a safe and secure environment for all students. “Principals and administrators are well within their rights do what they need to do to maintain good order within a school. “Keeping the kids safe is what it is all about.”