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Tulsa Public Schools board member questions security change at McLain: 'Clear backpacks do not stop crime'

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A Tulsa Public Schools board member says community input has led her to voice opposition to a new security policy at McLain High School.

“We need to restore hope, not policies that dash hope like this,” said Jennettie Marshall, District 3 representative on the TPS board.

Starting Nov. 28, McLain students will be allowed to use only clear, transparent backpacks and tote bags while on the campus at 4929 N. Peoria Ave.

“The principal of McLain, Renee Rabovsky, made the decision to implement this policy for McLain, and it’s a reckless decision because it was made without community input and without student or teacher input,” Marshall said. “Clear backpacks do not stop crime.”

A shooting at the end of McLain’s Sept. 30 homecoming football game left one student dead and three other people injured.

A TPS spokeswoman has said no other school sites have made plans to make a similar shift in security policy.

“While we work closely with schools across our district to keep students and team members safe, every school has the flexibility to make decisions about what best meets the needs of their school communities,” Drew Druzynski said in a statement on behalf of the district.

Marshall thinks the backpack policy singles out the north Tulsa school in an area that has “inherited a legacy of system inequities resulting from centuries worth of institutional racism,” as TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist said in a 2018 email to McLain students, parents, alumni and community members.

“She’s talking about the lack of equity, and she’s acknowledging it and she’s saying I hear you, but yet as the leader of a district, you allow something that is culturally insensitive to take place in your district,” Marshall said. “The lack of equity in this policy just reiterates the generational actions by the district.”

Members of the community who were present and stood behind Marshall’s stance include Darryl Bright, president and founder of Citizens United for a Better Educational System; former Tulsa City Councilor Joe Williams; the Rev. Melvin Easley, former president of the Tulsa chapter of the NAACP; and representatives of the Terence Crutcher Foundation.

“The district has experienced security issues in all of our schools — East Central High School, Thoreau Demonstration Academy and Phoenix Rising, to name a few,” Marshall said. She said community members are offended that the policy change is only at McLain.

Tulsa Public Schools said in a statement Tuesday: “As part of their continued work on keeping their community safe, the team at McLain High School has implemented a new clear backpack policy similar to the requirements you might experience at large public events such as concerts and football games.

“All of our school teams continuously assess safety practices and protocols, and we stand ready to support school teams with their site-specific safety plans.”

Among other security changes at McLain: a ban on head coverings, mandatory searches of purses and bags, and mandatory display of school ID on campus. Students also are subject to scans with a handheld wand metal detector.

“The key is better security and educating our young people.” Marshall said.

“What happened at McLain didn’t happen in the school, and it wasn’t perpetrated by a McLain student. It was perpetrated by a student from somewhere else.

“How do we change and move the needle? That’s what we need to look at.”

Police arrested Niavien Lee Golden, 16, in connection with the shooting at the Sept. 30 football game. Golden is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Terron Yarbrough, as well as three counts of shooting with intent to kill. Police say he will be tried as an adult.


Video: Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist talks about McLain shooting victim Terron Yarbrough

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist talks about McLain shooting victim Terron Yarbrough

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Staff Writer

I’m a breaking news reporter, covering crime and other spot news. I graduated from the University of Missouri with a journalism degree in 2021 before joining the Tulsa World. Send tips to news@tulsaworld.com

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