Second Michigan school district bans backpacks after 3rd-grader found with loaded gun: ‘a drastic step’

A second school district in Michigan has banned students from carrying backpacks on school premises after a third-grade student was found with a loaded gun.

On Wednesday morning, Grand Rapids Public Schools said the weapon was discovered at Stocking Elementary School and that it was the fourth such incident already this year in which a student was found with a handgun. Three of the firearms were found in backpacks.

The decision to ban backpacks came after Flint Community Schools Superintendent Kevelin Jones announced last month that the district would also be barring backpacks starting May 1.

During a news conference Wednesday, Grand Rapids Public Schools District Superintendent Leadriane Roby said that the ban was “a drastic step” that was necessary.


Larry Johnson, executive director of public safety and school security, added: “We have averted at least two tragedies in the last two weeks. We don’t want to stand before you again.”

Grand Rapids has not yet announced how it would allow students to carry their books and belongings.

In Flint, students are allowed to carry belongings in small purses or clear plastic bags. All bags are subject to being searched.


Flint Community Schools previously said it had banned backpacks due to a nationwide “increase in threatening behavior and contraband, including weapons, being brought into schools at all levels.”

Jones said in the letter dated April 27 that the district had “reached a point where we must make difficult decisions.”

“At Flint Community Schools, we are doing all that we can to create a safe and secure environment for our scholars, families, teachers and staff,” Jones said.

He added: “As a district, we are taking a 360-degree approach to create safe spaces for children’s academic journeys. To that end, we have reached a point where we must make difficult decisions and ask our school community to demonstrate flexibility, understanding and a shared sense of urgency when it comes to safety.”

The superintendent said backpacks specifically made the opportunity to conceal a weapon easier for potential bad actors.

“Across the country, we have seen an increase in threatening behavior and contraband, including weapons, being brought into schools at all levels,” Jones said.

“Backpacks make it easier for students to hide weapons, which can be disassembled and harder to identify or hidden in pockets, inside books or under other items,” he continued.

And: “Clear backpacks do not completely fix this issue. By banning backpacks altogether and adding an increased security presence across the district, we can better control what is being brought into our buildings.”

In 2021, a shooting at Oxford High School left four students dead and seven others injured. The shooter was a 15-year-old student.

Investigators believe Ethan Crumbley, who pleaded guilty to carrying out the shooting, stashed his gun in his backpack on the day of the shooting. The firearm had been purchased for him by his father and was not properly secured at home, officials said.

Separately, school districts throughout Texas started requiring students to use clear backpacks after a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, left 19 students and two teachers dead.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation last month that requires gun owners to keep firearms unloaded and stored in a locked storage box or container when it is “reasonably known that a minor is or is likely to be present on the premises.”

It goes into effect next year.

Fox News’ Bradford Betz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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