Fabiola Santiago

Clear backpacks won’t keep students safe. But what they’re doing with them is genius.

Labels on a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student’s see-through backpack.
Labels on a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student’s see-through backpack.

“Sorry for the inconvenience. I’m just just trying to change the world. Don't piss on my bonfire. #Neveragain— Sam Fuentes, who took shrapnel to the face at the Parkland shooting, on Twitter.

Just when you thought the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students couldn’t get any more eloquent, they do.

Enter the school leadership mandate that they must all carry see-through backpacks — and instantly, the students turn the violation of privacy into #NeverAgain message boards, a new weapon for activism risen from inside the halls where the worst high school shooting in America took place.

Putting their First Amendment to work once more, the students have clipped on the backpacks the $1.05 price tag they debuted at the March For Our Lives. It’s what their lives are worth, they say, to NRA darling Sen. Marco Rubio.

They pinned “We Call BS” and “Vote” stickers and filled their backpacks with rubber duckies (you silly grown-ups) and tampons (do you get the invasion of privacy now?).


I can’t get enough of their backpacks, which remind me of the transparent clutches some department stores forced their employees to use before the advent of fancier surveillance and more sophisticated ways of stealing.

Did the adults who failed them before the Valentine’s Day massacre think that a see-through backpack, identification badges and some new fencing was going to cut it for bright young minds who’ve been through hell and seen that the doorway is an assault rifle?

Fools are us.

On that dreadful Feb. 14, when the nation’s attention was sharply focused on them, these student survivors ignored the religious Second Amendment-inspired etiquette of sending thoughts and prayers — but no talk of gun control — and demanded immediate action. They broke the protocol neatly set up for gun violence outrage to wane, and indifference to take hold, and they stepped up their message every day thereafter.

DZ2yfJ5VoAE6T-w.jpg Cameron Kasky's backpack with Tampons
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Cameron Kasky shows off his see-through backpack filled with tampons Twitter

In less than a month, they birthed a movement to show this country why this generation needs gun control. More people attended the March For Our Lives than President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

If you thought after the march and Easter break that they’d be back to school and away from the limelight, sorry to disappoint you.

Ten days after their blockbuster march on Washington and across the country, they’re commanding our attention again. These remarkable kids from Parkland and Coral Springs — who linked hands and hearts with other kids touched by violence all over the country — won’t let you forget that 17 students and adults lost their lives to the firepower of an AR-15.

They see the backpacks, the badge holders, and the campus fencing for what they are — Band-Aids on a broken bone, as one put it — and they didn’t waste any time saying and showing us how it is so.

Remarked Delaney Tarr: “Nothing beats a morning walk through fenced lines with a bag check! Where am I, again?”

“Do you need any extra fences that will create the illusion of safety but are easily jumpable and make all the students feel like a combination of prisoners and livestock?” asks Emma González.

We shouldn’t expect any less from these student activists.

They’ve grown up with the gun madness around them, and they’re now well-versed on the unchecked, unstudied proliferation of guns in America, the easy access to assault weapons like the AR-15s and high-capacity magazines, and the overpowering influence of the NRA in politics to keep the status quo.

They aren’t going away.

“There’s a CLEAR line between public safety and invasion of privacy. That line is crossed at transparent backpacks,” tweeted Samantha Fuentes, whose face still wore the scars of shrapnel when she spoke at the march, so emotionally charged that she threw up on stage ... and kept right on going.

And so, the backpacks issued Monday — a knee-jerk reaction measure to a scared girl bringing a knife to Stoneman Douglas after the massacre — are being put to good use.

“Thousands of clear backpacks were donated to MSD... it’s a shame b/c they should’ve been given to a school that actually needs the supplies,” tweeted Jaclyn Corin. “But since we’re stuck with them, I decided to make the most out of the situation & decorate!!”

Decorate is an understatement.

They’re 3,000-plus mini walking billboards.

Movement leader Cameron Kasky decided to fill his with tampons — and when people didn’t get the message about the violation of privacy, he explained on Twitter: “I only got lights. I didn’t know. Getting supers for tomorrow. Sizes, pricing... I’m learning new things about women’s health right now. This stuff is expensive. Steps must be taken to make these health products easier to access.”

Got the message?

For all that failed them — and continues to fail them (the shooter’s brother sneaked into campus while the Broward Sheriff’s Deputy assigned to the school napped) — they see how wrong it is to turn all this around on them.

Why are the victims the ones who need to attend a school that starts to look and feel more like a prison? Why are the victims the ones to suffer loss of privacy by putting the personal contents of bags on full display?

They know the answer: Their privacy is the trade-off so that the gun industry in this country can keep selling more and more guns, and politicians who’ve risen on the campaign contributions of the NRA — and billionaire supporters who only look out for the wealth of the 1 percent — can stay in power.

If you wanted to fuel these kids’ commitment to change, congratulations.

They’re still on fire.

And they’ve birthed a new hashtag: #ThisIsStupid.