‘No backpack’ policy in Grantsville High classrooms leaves students, parents frustrated

GRANTSVILLE, Utah — Students are calling for change after they say a "no backpack" rule in Grantsville High School classrooms is causing late fees and frustration.

Lauren Johnson is a freshman at Grantsville High School this year.

“None of my classes are near my locker,” Lauren said.

Starting high school, she knew there would be changes.

“You have more textbooks and you have more binders and folders and notebooks.”

But she didn’t expect this.

“We don’t get to have our backpacks there, and it makes life so much more difficult because of that,” Lauren said.

Classrooms — where she can’t have her backpack.

“On the first day of school I had most of my teachers apologize because the backpack policy is absolutely ridiculous,” Lauren said. “It’s not a reasonable policy at all.”

Tooele County School District said the school put the rule in place to address safety concerns.

“The classrooms really weren’t designed to hold backpacks, there are no storage facilities or hooks, so it creates a tripping hazard,” said district spokeswoman Marie Denson.

The school district also noted not all of the classrooms are backpack-free.

“They’ve made some compromises and said, ‘If you don’t really care about having backpacks in your classroom, great — but if you do, just put a sign out front so students know they can’t have backpacks in the classroom,’” Denson explained.

However, for Lauren, not being able to bring her backpack into "some" classrooms doesn’t make a difference.

“Anytime of the day I could just have an asthma attack,” Lauren explained. “People have tried to steal my asthma inhaler before, and it’s really hard because you know you want to keep in concealed unless you need it. But you can’t have it on you either because it would just be on top of your books.”

Lauren said she knows she’s not alone.

“There is a lot of students that have personal care items that they need to have on them, that they can’t carry in a binder,” said Lauren. “Asthma inhalers, EpiPen’s, for girls, feminine hygiene products, you know, everyone needs to have something that they need to have in a backpack.”

Health and personal concerns aside, Lauren believes the school’s attendance policy also works against those who carry backpacks.

“You’re tardy if you have a backpack and you have to go put it in your locker,” said Lauren.

According to Grantsville High School’s rules, students receive fines for not being "ready to learn," stating in part:

“Students need to be on time and ready to learn so our teachers can provide the best education possible. Attendance tickets will be given if students are tardy for class. The first tardy, is a warning and no fine is imposed. On the second tardy, a $3 fine is imposed. All further tardies will be imposed a $5 fine.”

“You hear high school’s so much better than junior high, and it’s not right now," Lauren said. "You can’t have your backpack, and then if you’re late to class it’s just embarrassing."

Lauren said student body officers have tried to come up with reasonable solutions.

“We could put it on the back of chairs, we could have hooks in the classroom ... a designated spot for them," Lauren said. "We thought it went well and then they haven’t responded."

Denson said the school's principal is trying to make changes.

“[Students] have their schedules, they don’t have time to run back to their locker before they have to go to another class so they’ll carry their books around. In that instance, they just need to talk to the teacher. A lot of accommodations can be made,” Denson said.

“This is a team environment, it’s not an ‘us vs. them,’ they’re trying to figure out a system to prevent that clutter but to also be convenient for students,” Denson continued.

But so far, students haven’t seen changes.

“The school doesn’t listen to us. We feel like they don’t care — they just brush us off,” Lauren said. “Our school motto is ‘Commit to the G,’ but ... we feel like they aren’t committed to us.”

The school district said Grantsville High School’s principal will be talking with parents Wednesday to address concerns.

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