Students asked, school leaders answered: Marshall County bans backpacks

Marshall County schools don't allow backpacks and they've added metal detectors to keep...
Marshall County schools don't allow backpacks and they've added metal detectors to keep students safe. (WKYT)(WKYT)
Published: Nov. 14, 2019 at 6:18 PM EST
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The Marshall County school district does not allow backpacks in the high school or middle schools.

The superintendent doesn't understand why other school districts don't do the same.

Every instance in Kentucky, where there has been a loss of life or a hostage situation within a school and a fellow student has been the culprit the weapons used were brought into the school in a backpack.

From the outside, Marshall County High School hasn't changed, but the inside is different now.

The school doesn't have the same 'common area' anymore. The setup when you walk in the front doors looks different than two years ago.

The changes were planned long before January 3rd, 2018 - the day police said 15-year-old Gabe Parker shot and killed two fellow students and injured 13 others.

WKYT's Investigative Reporter Miranda Combs and Investigative Photographer Barton Bill went back to Marshall County.

Superintendent Trent Lovett said the one thing that sticks out the most in his mind was the sights he saw when he walked into the common area after the shootings.

"You won't ever get that out of your head," he recalled. "In the commons area, there was blood, drinks, coffee just all over the floor. It was just a mess."

Lovett told WKYT a lot about that day we'd never heard before, like how the alleged shooter hid in the weight room with about 75 other students trying to mask his identity, and how the teachers, on their first day back, weren't able to walk into the common area.

It was a lot of trauma for one school to take.

So Supt. Lovett asked the students what they could do to make students feel safe when they returned to school.

He said their immediate answer: Check our backpacks.

They also ordered metal detector wands and checked backpacks and wanded every student for the remainder of the school year.

"We had about six different points of entry," Lovett said. The lines moved quickly as administrators and volunteers checked every book bag, gym bag, really anything with a zipper.

Then, over the summer, a safety committee met, and without debate, they decided to ban backpacks from the high school and middle schools. They also added metal detectors.

"You can have 3-ring binders, spiral notebooks, and for the most part, kids have figured out what they could bring and what they can't bring," Lovett said.

Lovett said the district rule has had very little pushback. Students can still bring gym bags and purses if needed. Those students go through a different line to get into the building.

"It's sort of like a fast pass at Disneyland. If you don't have a bag, come this way. If you have a purse or a gym bag, you go the other direction, and they search them," said Lovett.

The Marshall County superintendent talks to other districts and they come to see how the process works in Benton.

Lovett says he welcomes it. "If you think it's never going to happen to you, it'll happen."

Students at the elementary schools are allowed to have clear or mesh backpacks.