Assembly votes to force schools to reduce backpack weight

By Stefanie Frith, The Associated Press
Wednesday May 29, 2002

SACRAMENTO — Concerned that students who lug heavy backpacks will develop spinal problems, the state Assembly approved a bill Tuesday that would force school boards to figure out ways to reduce excess backpack weight. 

The Assembly voted 71-1 to approve AB 2532, sending it to the Senate. 

The bill by Assemblyman Rod Pacheco, R-Riverside, and Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Daly City, would require school boards to develop and distribute a voluntary survey to school districts to find creative, cost-effective options to reduce excess backpack weight. 

The bill was amended to no longer include requirements for schools to adopt a maximum weight standard for textbooks. 

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, backpack-related injuries send almost 5,000 students each year to emergency rooms nationwide. 

Concerns about drugs and guns possibly hidden in student lockers have led many California schools to remove the lockers during the last decade. 

Some school districts have started to tackle the problem by deciding which nights to assign certain homework. Other schools have been able to purchase two sets of books for their students. One set is left at home, the other in the classrooms. 

Assemblyman Dario Frommer, D-Los Angeles, said the bill is not about giving less homework, just making sure that children are not carrying more weight than they can handle. 

“Doing homework should not be hazardous to your health,” he said. 

Children are often carrying 25 percent of their weight on their backs, said Pacheco. 

“Ninety pound children are carrying 40-pound backpacks,” Pacheco said. “These burdens are creating severe medical difficulties.” 

The California Medical Association and the California Physical Therapists Association support the bill because childhood is a key time for spinal growth, which could be altered by carrying heavy backpacks. 

The CPTA also said that it is seeing abnormal growth patterns in children’s collarbones caused by too much weight on their shoulders and backs. 


On the Net: 

Read the bill, AB 2532, at www.assembly.ca.gov