Manatee County school district increases security for public meetings
Starting Thursday, most backpacks, bags and even large purses will be banned at School District of Manatee County sports events like high school football games.
Instead, the school district says each guest will be allowed to carry only one large, clear bag into a game, as well as the option of a small clutch-type handbag.
The large bag must fit within certain size dimensions (no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches), be easily searchable and made of a clear material, according to the district.
“A gallon-sized Ziploc bag is a readily available clear bag that meets these requirements,” the district said in a press release on Tuesday.
Clutch bags must be no larger than 4.5 inches by 6.5 inches.
“These procedures have been created to ensure the safety of our students and spectators,” the district said.
The announcement of the new “clear bag or no bag” policy was accompanied by a diagram with size specifications for approved bags.
The district laid out the new policy in more detail in a “Frequently Asked Questions” document that included the following details:
▪ Binoculars or cameras will be allowed into games if carried by hand or placed in a clear bag, the document says, but bags designed specifically to carry those items are prohibited.
▪ Seat cushions and blankets are allowed during cold weather and should not be placed in a bag.
▪ Those who show up to the game with unapproved bags or items will be turned away from the gates, the district says, and have the opportunity to return the belongings to a vehicle. The bags cannot be left at the gate or unattended on campus.
▪ The new policy allows exceptions for bags required for medical needs, members of the media covering a game and student athletes participating in a game. All bags will be subject to inspection.
▪ Children are also allowed to bring one large, clear bag.
▪ Guns, knives, drugs and alcohol are prohibited on all school district properties, and law enforcement will be notified if any of those items are found during a bag inspection.
District spokesman Michael Barber said Tuesday that the new policy is being put in place due to general safety concerns. Supervisor of athletics Jason Montgomery worked with district athletic directors to create it.
“It’s another sign of heightened security interest in the school district,” Barber said. “Unfortunately, any stadium or place that you walk into these days you go through similar procedures.”
Barber also noted that Sarasota County Schools has a similar policy in place.