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Wheeled backpacks banned at 3 Shelby elementary schools

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District allows each school to set its own policy

By Todd Martin

While many believe that backpacks with wheels are the best way for young students to combat heavy loads of homework, that’s not always the case.

Several schools and school districts across the country have banned the backpacks because they clog up hallways, don't fit in lockers and cause general trouble when students run down the halls dragging them after they've tipped over from going too fast.

And that’s also the case in Shelby County.

Three elementary schools - Clear Creek, Simpsonville and Wright - have banned the wheeled backpacks for those exact reasons.

Wright Principal Lynn Gottbrath instituted the policy at her school when she started five years ago.

“I did it for two reasons,” she said. “One, they’re much heavier and cause a lot more stress to the student. And, two, sometimes kids are just being kids and they sling them around and it can cause problems.”

Simpsonville Principal Jill Tingle said the rule was put in place before she started three years ago.

And at Clear Creek, the bigger wheeled backpacks don’t fit in the student’s lockers in their classrooms.

Duanne Puckett, the district's public relations coordinator, said that much like the dress code issues, the district doesn't set policy on backpacks.

"Each school decides on their own process with backpacks, including whether or not they can be carried, have wheels or must be stored in lockers all day," she said. "We don't set policies on things like that."

Gottbrath said it was her decision at Wright, and it’s one she has seen taking over nationally.

The changes aren’t just at schools either.

The American Chiropractic Association does not recommend young students use rolling backpacks, instead focusing on the proper way to use traditional two-strap backpacks.

"Although the use of rollerpacks - or backpacks on wheels - has become popular in recent years, the ACA is now recommending that they be used cautiously and on a limited basis by only those students who are not physically able to carry a backpack," the association states on its Web site. "Some school districts have begun banning the use of rollerpacks because they clutter hallways, resulting in dangerous trips and falls."

The ACA offers these tips for students carrying traditional two-strap backpacks.

  • Make sure your child's backpack weighs no more than 5 to 10 percent of his or her body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on his or her back, rather than on the shoulder straps.
  • The backpack should never hang more than 4 inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward.
  • A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the contents most effectively.
  • Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry-and the heavier the backpack will be.
  • Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Using just one strap can cause the disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as lower-back pain.
  • Wide, padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable, and can dig into the shoulders.
  • The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child's body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.
  • If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child's teacher about leaving the heaviest books at school, and bring home only lighter handout materials or workbooks.