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Legislature to consider heavy issue with backpack resolution

Hauling a backpack almost as big as himself, a student walks into Lakeland Elementary School on the first day of the 2014-15 school year. A resolution filed in the Tennessee General Assembly recommends that schools promote ways to avoid backpack-related injuries.
Hauling a backpack almost as big as himself, a student walks into Lakeland Elementary School on the first day of the 2014-15 school year. A resolution filed in the Tennessee General Assembly recommends that schools promote ways to avoid backpack-related injuries.
O. Morrison

When Tennessee lawmakers reconvene next week for their regular session, they will be greeted by weighty educational issues – Common Core standards, charter schools, overloaded backpacks.

Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis) has filed a resolution urging educators, parents and students to become more educated about backpack-related injuries and how to avoid them.

“Because spinal ligaments and muscles are not fully developed until after age sixteen, overweight backpacks are a source of repeated low-level stress that may result in chronic neck, shoulder or back pain in children,” reads the resolution. The resolution notes that backpack-related injuries — which include strains, sprains, dislocations and fractures — account for more than 7,000 emergency room visits annually, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The resolution says injuries have increased partly because students wear their packs incorrectly and partly because, in addition to textbooks, kids are weighed down with computers, cell phones, water bottles, running shoes, band instruments and other items.

“Studies have shown an increase in curvatures of the spine and compressed intervertebral height when backpacks exceed ten percent of a child’s body weight,” the resolution reads.

While a resolution doesn’t have the force of law, it can reflect the concerns of legislators or their constituents.

Citing 2010 Global Burden of Disease study, the resolution noted that back pain is the No. 1 cause of disability worldwide, followed by musculoskeletal disorders.

Follow the status of education-related bills in the 109th Tennessee General Assembly.
Follow the status of education-related bills in the 109th Tennessee General Assembly.

The resolution recommends encouraging “ergonomic backpacks with individualized compartments to efficiently hold books and equipment,” and having students weigh their backpacks in class, graph the results, and look at the data to determine how they can make their backpacks lighter. It also recommends that schools consider transitioning to electronic textbooks as federal and state funding become available.

DeBerry did not respond Monday to a request for comment. Sen. Delores Gresham (R-Somerville), chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, is co-sponsoring the resolution.

Does your school have policies addressing backpack weight? How have burdensome backpacks been an issue for your students? We invite readers to comment below.

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