In October 2021, a series of videos went viral on TikTok that supposedly showed students carrying their books in a variety of unusual items, such as grocery carts, microwaves, snow sleds, laundry baskets, and wagons, after their school banned backpacks in the wake of a school shooting.
As this rumor went viral (one post from Starlight Miriam has nearly 8 million views, another from Drippy Peanut has 12 million), another set of videos showing a very similar scene — students carrying books in items other than backpacks — was circulated on social media attached to a different claim: that this was part of a senior prank called “No Backpack Day.”
So what’s the truth behind these videos? Do these videos show a school attempting to implement a ban on backpacks to prevent school shootings? Or are these humorous videos showing school day hijinks?
Here’s what we found.
Jefferson School District 251
In September 2021, Jefferson School District 251 in Idaho banned backpacks after a gun was found in the backpack of a 13-year-old girl at Rigby Middle School. According to East Idaho News, this was the second gun-related incident at the school this year.
On Sept. 23, Jefferson School District 251 banned backpacks in its secondary schools in the hours after deputies took an emotionally struggling 13-year-old girl into custody after finding a gun in her backpack. It marked the second gun incident at the school after a sixth-grade student opened fire with a handgun in May, where two students and a custodian were shot, but not killed.
A few of the videos that went viral truly showed students in this school district improvising ways to carry their books after backpacks were banned. In the video below, there’s a brief glimpse of the school’s gymnasium. This is the same gym floor used at Rigby High School.
Jefferson School District 251 Superintendent Chad Martin addressed the viral videos, saying that it was good to see the kids turning this into a positive thing.
“I think that all kids need to be able to deal with things and I think they are dealing with it … We hope (the backpack ban) is a temporary thing until we get a more permanent fix. If this can be a positive thing that they enjoy for a little bit, that’s wonderful.”
Brazil’s ‘No Backpack Day’
Confusingly, while videos from this backpack ban were going viral in the United States, another video showing similar behavior was going viral in Brazil.
This video appears to show a sort of “spirit day” in which the older students get to make a rule for the younger students. In this case, they decided to ban backpacks for the day.
The Reddit user who initially shared this video explained: “I’ve seen that some people didn’t understand the context, so here it is some explanation: basically the students from the year before those who are about to graduate high school have to do whatever they want, it’s like when you are new in collage.”
As best as we can tell, this video was taken at Magistério CEEP Brasílio Machado, a school in the city of Antonina in southern Brazil. The school shared another video of this “day without backpacks” on YouTube:
Bodkin, Devin. “Student with Gun Arrested at Rigby Middle School.” Idaho Education News, 23 Sept. 2021, https://www.idahoednews.org/news/student-with-gun-arrested-at-rigby-middle-school/.
Grossarth, Eric and EastIdahoNews.com. “Backpack Policy in Jefferson County Schools Adjusted after Further Review.” East Idaho News, 1 Oct. 2021, https://www.eastidahonews.com/2021/10/backpack-policy-in-jefferson-county-schools-adjusted-after-further-review/.