Board votes to change backpack policy for Lafourche schools

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Melissa Naquin
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On Wednesday, the Lafourche Parish School Board voted to revise the Student Dress Code to allow for backpacks not made of clear plastic or other mesh material, giving parents additional choices when school shopping. 

The policy did require for all school bags — including bookbags, backpacks, and satchels, among others — to be made of see-through material so that the contents of the bag are “clearly visible.” It did allow non-see-through athletic bags in a field house or locker room, however. 

The revision reads: “Backpacks must be school appropriate and must not contain offensive, derogatory, or explicit graphics, symbols, or writing. Noise-making and light-up backpacks are also prohibited.”

Superintendent Jarod Martin said the alteration results from many months of conversations with parents who complained the mesh backpacks don’t hold up an entire school year. “Pencils, ink pens [and] lead pens stick out of the mesh backpacks and puncture holes in both our school bus seats and, unfortunately, sometimes other children,” he said. 

School officials implemented the mesh/clear requirement because of safety concerns, such as a student sneaking a weapon into a school facility. School board member Richard Bouterie Jr. said that the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office and school resource officers support lifting the requirement. 

Yet, Barry Plaisance, the only school board member to vote against the policy change, still had concerns. “My only fear with this is, is that you open up a can of worms. And if something happens — that’s all I’m going to say,” he said. “…The only part that bothers me is giving someone a lit bit more of an opportunity…I don’t like the chance of it.” 

But several of his colleagues argued for the policy change. “We have done so many things since this [mesh bag requirement] was first enacted to keep our students safe that it is okay now to have a non-mesh bag,” said Valerie Bourgeois. “I spoke with a principal that said…if a student wants to bring something in, they’re going to get it in because they’ve picked up drugs, they’ve picked up knives that students put between books,” added Marian Fertitta. 

The Lafourche Parish School District said that the policy change is effective for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Here’s how school board members voted:

Yea: Robin Bell, Cheryl Thomas, Marian Fertitta, Richard Bouterie, Dr. Dennis Guillot, Valerie Bourgeois, Randy Schouest, Clyde Duplantis, Al Archer, Ray Bernard, Christy Chabert

Nay: Barry Plaisance