Several students charged after 3 guns discovered at 2 Charlotte-area schools

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – After three guns were found Thursday on two Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools campuses, parents raised frustration and concern.

“I don’t want to hear about this every year and all the time,” said Khem Saroth, a parent of a student at West Charlotte High School, which had two guns that were found on two students Thursday morning.

CMS recently released plans to address rising school violence and weapons on campus. One of those plans, involving clear plastic backpacks being bought for high school students across the district, has been a large focus.

The plastic backpacks, nearly 46,000 in all, bought at a cost of around $450,000, have parents asking questions on how this will work and be implemented.

“There were a lot of different standards and it took everyone a little bit of time to get familiar with the policy,” said Aubrey Chancellor with the North East Independent School District, which serves the San Antonio, Texas area.

“We were more and more concerned about safety,” she said. “We were more concerned about school shootings taking place, so it was on our radar.”

Chancellor said there were some exceptions that had to be molded out on the policies they put in place district-wide for middle and high schools. Purses were allowed to be carried around, gym bags could be carried to athletic areas and band instruments could be carried without issue.

School safety experts FOX 46 spoke with said those exceptions do not help or hinder school safety, but clear plastic backpacks had challenges of their own when it came to safety.

“(Districts) typically discontinue the practice because students can find ways around it,” said Michael Dorn, who is a school safety expert with Safe Havens International, a non-profit organization with a focus on addressing ways to curb school violence and weapons on campuses.

Dorn said backpack policies could work in some circumstances, but not all, primarily because — even in an environment where clear plastic backpack may be a requirement, weapons can still be hidden.

“We have only suggested clear backpacks for a few circumstances — students who are blind, Pre-K and Kindergarten where students are not old enough to know how to conceal something inside the bookbag,” he said.

Dorn also added that any clear backpack policy would need to be supported by other measures, which is something Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said they are doing.

CMS announced a doubling of security screenings, along with putting together a way for middle and high school students to address violence, threats, and weapons anonymously.

Chancellor said the North East Independent School District recently ended their policy of clear backpacks, starting this school year, due to concerns over the quality of the plastic bags, which she said had a habit of breaking.

“Even if we had just one three-ring binder in it and a couple of books, that was really enough to cause some issues with the quality,” she said.

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