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The Journal Gazette

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017 1:00 am

EACS approves backpack limits

Autistic students will be assisted, officials say

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

The East Allen County Schools board heard just one concern Tuesday before unanimously approving an updated back-to-school guide that limits students' book bag use.

The guide now states that book bags, coats and large purses must be stowed in lockers throughout the school day. Bags carried in hallways for gym must be clear or see-through.

Adding the passage allows EACS to formalize a common practice within the district, Superintendent Ken Folks has said.

Scott Garner of the Indiana Autism Alliance, a coalition of autism advocates, told the board the rule is unfair to students with IQs lower than 80. Other methods – such as metal detectors – can help ensure that students don't smuggle contraband in schools, he said.

Folks described it as a “legitimate concern.” He said accommodations can be made for students with individualized educational plans, or IEPs. Other such accommodations have included providing students with a padlock for their lockers if they cannot use combination locks, said Deborah Watson, assistant superintendent of secondary education.

Board member Paulette Nellems said children with autism may have attachments to certain objects, like a book bag.

Connie Brown, the district's special services director, said educators have worked with students to address such issues, such as by replacing the object with another, more appropriate item.

In other news, Chief Financial Officer Kirby Stahly told the board EACS might have the opportunity to buy property on Hosler Road directly west of Leo Elementary School. The owner contacted EACS about the possibility, he said.

Stahly described the potential purchase as a “wise investment” because it could help improve access to Hosler Road.

The board is expected to vote in June on a resolution authorizing appraisals of the property.

asloboda@jg.net