Clear backpacks will not be distributed to CMS students this year

CHARLOTTE — Clear backpacks will not be distributed to CMS students this year. A spokesperson said on June 2 they could not say whether the district is looking into returning the bags

In May, CMS told Channel 9 on Thursday that they did a risk assessment that found the clear backpacks purchased by the district were unlikely to pose a risk to students.

CMS had previously announced that the district was pausing the distribution of its clear backpacks because of concerns with Proposition 65 warning tags attached to them.

[ALSO READ: Students react to clear backpack policy at Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools]

Prop 65 is for California residents and “requires businesses to provide warnings to Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

The company that made the backpacks, AD Sutton, told Channel 9 the warning only applies to California and that the tags can be removed.

The district spent more than $440,000 on clear backpacks to improve security at schools.

District officials sent an email to families that said when they unloaded the backpacks, they noticed most had tags for Proposition 65.

The district was supposed to start handing them out Tuesday to students at Cochrane Collegiate Academy.


CMS is contacting the manufacturers and will not hand out the clear backpacks until the matter is resolved.

“We are contacting the manufacturer and proceeding with reclaiming any backpacks that were provided to students in advance of school distribution,” the district said in an email.

The purchase order for the clear backpacks shows CMS bought backpacks made by two different manufacturers. The director of sales for Eastport told Channel 9 that their backpacks are Prop 65 compliant and don’t need the warning. A.D. Sutton hasn’t responded yet.

It’s an odd situation according to CMS board member Rhonda Cheek, especially when you consider how many things have the Prop 65 label.

“Apparently these labels are n just about every electronic device -- even Christmas tree lights, aloe vera gel, even hand sanitizer, which we have everywhere. This is not apparently an uncommon thing. This is just a little unnerving when you open a bag and see that label and don’t understand the context,” she said.

Even at Disneyland, signs posted at the park mention Prop 65.

“They have a team of people research to find what companies can make these bookbags clear, safe, convenient and in a mass number in a certain time period,” said Garcia Nelson, a community activist. “So this should have never happened.”

Nelson said that he doesn’t understand how the district got it wrong, and the schools are less safe because of the delay.

“The book bag should have been our great start to say, ‘Look, what we are going do toward safety for Charlotte, North Carolina?’” Nelson said.

Dr. Jeffrey Galvin, who runs Vitality Medical Wellness in Charlotte, said he thinks CMS might need to reconsider.

“I do think it’s a bit of an overreaction. We are exposed to that same vinyl that made those backpacks all the time. Are we worried about getting cancer from our shower curtain? Probably not,” Galvin said.

Cheek said the district probably shouldn’t have purchased so many without testing them first, and that maybe CMS needs to return the backpacks.

CMS has not released any other details at this point.

What is Proposition 65?

Prop 65 is a warning only required in the state of California for products that include one of 900 chemicals that could cause cancer or harm.

“Those chemicals are found in many different things, and can even be involved in the manufacturing of the product, not the product themselves, even the packaging of the products,” Galvin told Channel 9.

Due to online sales, most products include a Prop 65 label if they include one of the chemicals; but the labels don’t specify which chemical, or even how much of a chemical, the product has.

Gavin recommends that the district talk to the manufacturer to find out what chemicals are in the bags.

(Watch the video below: CMS slates 2 schools to test clear backpacks; district updates its security measures)

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