© 2022 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

CMS board approves unloading 46,000 book bags, but superintendent doubts danger

Hattabaugh 0614.jpeg
Ann Doss Helms
/
WFAE
Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh speaks at Tuesday's Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board meeting.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board voted unanimously Tuesday to put $442,000 worth of clear book bags up for surplus auction, a move that's unlikely to recoup much of the cost.

Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh opened the meeting with an update on safety measures taken in recent months. One item went unmentioned: His predecessor’s purchase of 46,000 clear backpacks, intended for distribution to all high school students.

And there was no discussion from the board before approving the surplus list, which also includes classroom furniture and old TV sets and computers. "These auctions usually generate $500 to $15,000 in revenue," the document says.

Former Superintendent Earnest Winston said the clear bags would deter students from bringing guns to school. He put that plan on hold in March when staff discovered warning tags, which are required in California, that indicated the bags could contain harmful chemicals.

In a March 2020 article, the New York Times noted that Proposition 65, which mandated the warning labels, passed more than 30 years ago. The tags became more common after new regulations came out in 2018, the article says. And it notes that the labels appear on innocuous items with only tiny amounts of chemicals on the list.

Hattabaugh, who replaced Winston in April, said after the board meeting he doesn’t believe there’s any real danger.

"There’s all kind of materials around us — cell phones, everything has similar materials," he said. "It just had to do with the tag that was on them, I believe, that created concern."

He said the decision to dispose of the bags was made before Winston was fired and he took over. And he said CMS might have to come up with a new plan, depending on how the auction goes.

"We’re going to go this route first and we’ll see if we have takers and then we’ll go from there," he said.

Anyone who wants a lot of clear book bags can check GovDeals.com, a site that auctions off government surplus items.

Sign up for our Education Newsletter

Select Your Email Format

Ann Doss Helms covers education for WFAE. She was a reporter for The Charlotte Observer for 32 years, including 16 years on the education beat. She has repeatedly won first place in education reporting from the North Carolina Press Association. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.