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Grand Rapids Public Schools students react to district's ban on backpacks

A group of students walked out of class in protest of the district's reaction to another gun found on a student.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Several Grand Rapids Public School students walked out of class on Thursday in protest of the district's ban on backpacks in response to a loaded gun found on an elementary school student.

"I think it goes horrifically under addressed by all sorts of people in the political sphere," says Collin Helak, a senior at Grand Rapids Public Museum High School.

And right now, Helak thinks it's going under addressed by school leaders as well.

"You'd think it would be common sense," he says.

Helak joined several other students in the protest at Rosa Parks Circle. They were asked to leave school property when originally protesting there.

Sophomore Vivian Idziak says she used to feel safe at school.

"Not as much anymore lately," she says.

And the Innovation Central High School student thinks the backpack ban doesn't go far enough.

"I would like to see metal detectors," says Idziak. "That would be more efficient and prevent people from bringing things inside."

Liam McDermed agrees, noticing holes in the school safety procedures.

"Some doors in our school aren't locked," says McDermed, a sophomore at Grand Rapids Montessori School. "There are people who don't get checked who should."

Jada Brown, a fellow Montessori student, says the ban on bags will impact productiveness in class as well.

"You're trying to protect them, right? So why would you ban the stuff they need to get their work done?" asks Brown. "We have Chromebooks, we have a bunch of papers we carry around. We need bags."

In the end, each of the students feels district leaders have more work to do.

"It's too little and too late," says Devin Holmes, another Montessori student. "And it doesn't make me feel any safer than I did before."

Superintendent Dr. Leadriane Roby provided a statement to 13 ON YOUR SIDE in response to the student protest: 

“I want our families, and especially our scholars to know that we stand with you. I never imagined I would see a day in my career where I would feel the need to ban students from carrying backpacks.

It is my hope that the frustration focuses on the reason for the backpack ban — the fact that guns are winding up in the hands of some of our youngest scholars.

Something must change and that is why we are here today.”

GRPS out out an FAQ page on its website last night to help address parent and student concerns. You can read it here.

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