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Peel Catholic high school students launch petition to fight in-class backpack ban

Click to play video 'Peel Catholic secondary students launch petition to fight in-class backpack ban' Peel Catholic secondary students launch petition to fight in-class backpack ban
Tue, Sep 19: A handful of Catholic high schools in Peel Region have barred students from bringing backpacks to class. The bags have been cited as clutter and tripping hazards. Students say the measure leads to lateness, and in some cases, not having necessary medication and supplies on them. Mark Carcasole reports – Sep 19, 2017

Backpacks have been a common sight in school classrooms for decades now. The backpack is a go-to piece of equipment for carrying around the books, binders and lunches of students at all levels of education.

But backpacks, bags and purses are no longer welcome in class at some Catholic high schools in Peel Region.

A note posted on the website of Philip Pocock Secondary School in Mississauga explains that particular school’s decision.

“The Ministry of Labour has recently inspected the school. One of the biggest issues the inspector identified is the amount of clutter that he saw around the building,” the statement said.

“Clutter is a health and safety issue.”

The posting goes on to cite backpacks as tripping hazards, threats to students’ back, neck and shoulder health, targets for thieves and the cause of hallway congestion among other issues.

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Students like Megan Beere, a Grade 10 student at Cardinal Leger Catholic School in Brampton, said the policy was implemented without consultation or warning.

“We just found out the first day of school,” she said.

“(School staff) were like, ‘Hey, you can’t really bring a backpack into class anymore.'”

Beere said textbooks, folders and pencil cases end up scattered on classroom floors now, therefore creating further hazards.

It’s an inconvenience for some of her classmates, but Beere said it makes her feel “unsafe” in class due to multiple medical concerns.

“(My) Epipen and my inhalers, as well as the other medication that I have to carry around such as pills. It poses an issue because I can’t have a backpack to contain them in,” she said.

“It’s unsanitary to have them either in my pencil case like has been suggested to me by my teachers, or just on the floor.”

Beere said she plans to take the issue up with her principal.

Chloe Cabral, a Grade 12 student at Cardinal Leger, has started an online petition calling on the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB) to drop the measure.

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As of Tuesday evening, it sat just shy of its goal of reaching 1,000 supporters. But DPCDSB spokesperson Bruce Campbell said “the board has nothing to do with it.”

“This is strictly a local solution to a local problem that some schools have adopted,” he said.

Campbell said the school board will not wade into the debate and will let students and officials at the “handful” of schools enforcing such a policy to work it out themselves.

“Change is hard to embrace,” he told students.

“I would say give it a little time to get used to it.”