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Naples Daily News (Florida)
Collier and Lee school districts announced Wednesday that backpacks and other large bags would no longer be allowed inside district sporting venues, effective immediately.
The restrictions apply to high school stadiums and gyms and will be in effect only for games.
The Lee district's decision came after Cypress Lake High School had announced it would ban backpacks and large bags from sporting events.
In an email, Collier County Schools Superintendent Kamela Patton said an exception would be made for necessary medical items, after inspection.
All games will have increased security, district spokesman Greg Turchetta wrote in an email.
Turchetta said purses and other small bags will still be allowed, but they will be subject to possible screening.
Less than a week ago, a shooting at a high school football game in Jacksonville left one teenager dead and two others injured.
"With all that's happened in recent times and how close to home these events are, security is of the utmost importance," said Barron Collier activities director Ken Andiorio.
"We have to do everything we can to reduce the possibility of something like that happening here.
"I mean you're probably never going to eliminate it completely. You can't monitor every car that drives by a stadium, but you can do everything you can to make sure the stadium itself and the campus itself is as safe as it can possibly be."
Barron Collier was one of four Collier County schools already to have a backpack policy in place prior to Wednesday's announcement. Golden Gate, Gulf Coast and Palmetto Ridge were the others.
Lee County schools issued its policies after one of its member schools did the day before.
"Announcement: Do NOT bring any bags, purses, or backpacks to football games," the Cypress Lake High School Twitter account wrote Tuesday.
"You will not be permitted to enter the stadium if you bring them. Please leave them at home or in your car during the games. Thank you for your cooperation."
Lee County Superintendent Greg Adkins announced the districtwide policy after meeting with the School Board on Wednesday.
"Rather than have some of the schools doing some individual things ... it would be best just to come out as a district with this new procedure," Adkins said.
Turchetta's email did not say whether Collier County's new policy is related to the Jacksonville shooting.
When asked what prompted the change, Turchetta wrote: "We continued to review all safety procedures and decided it was time to add this additional layer of security to help keep students, staff and our community safe."
Collier school district activities coordinator Mark Rosenbalm said Wednesday's move was just the latest in a series of moves to make campuses more secure.
"It's a totally different world out there today," Rosenbalm said. "And as a district we're always at the forefront of constantly trying to make sure our students are safe, whatever venue they go to in our school system."
Collier School Board member and Naples High School parent Erick Carter said he understood why the district felt the need to increase security.
"When we host these games, it's not just our students coming into our gymnasiums. We really don't know who's coming," he said.
"As a parent, I see it as another layer of protection for my son," Carter said. "We'll see how it goes this Friday, and I welcome feedback from parents as to what their thoughts are."
Andiorio said anything the district can do to make venues safer for student-athletes and spectators is a winning proposition.
"It's best to be vigilant in situations like this," he said. "There's an old saying, 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.'
"Only in this case, we're not talking about a rash. We're talking about issues of life and death. So it's great to see the district being proactive and putting these types of policies in place."
Fort Myers News-Press staff writers Seth Soffian and Thyrie Bland contributed to this report.
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