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New Orleans schools expected to allow bulletproof backpacks

December 19, 2018

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Bulletproof backpacks may soon be allowed in New Orleans public schools.

An Orleans Parish School Board committee on Tuesday approved allowing the optional bags, and The New Orleans Advocate reports that it appears the proposal will get enough to pass when the full board votes Thursday. The school district’s attorney, Kathy Moss, says the board is not required to pass the policy change, but the district would like to give families the option.

The backpacks were banned in Louisiana until Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a proposal in June to let students wear them on school property or school buses.

In the early 1990s, schools were designated as gun-free zones, and state law prevented students or staff from wearing body armor. The law now has an exception to the body-armor ban, allowing backpacks with either a metal insert or whole panels made with Kevlar, a fiber used in bulletproof vests.

Republican state Sen. Mike Walsworth introduced the bill. He has said that the backpacks could protect students if a shooter is on campus, and that he was reacting to the shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school in February that killed 17 people. The measure was one of roughly two dozen gun bills filed this year, most stemming from the shooting.

Other Louisiana school districts have passed rules allowing bulletproof backpacks. The school board in West Feliciana Parish did so in August.

State Sen. J.P. Morrell, a Democrat from New Orleans, was one of two senators who voted against the bill. He said the backpacks, which can cost from $50 to $400, might be unaffordable for many families and are not equivalent to “a Captain America shield.”

Officials have warned against being misled by companies promising the backpacks meet federal standards. U.S. Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said this year that marketing claiming National Institute of Justice testing or certification for such products is false, as the research institute certifies body armor only for law enforcement.

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Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com

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