Heavy backpacks weigh down Newton South students

By Julia Lytle
Published: September 2009

The first couple days of school of each school year, high school students’ backpacks aren’t very heavy. It’s by the second or third week that teachers begin to ask students to bring in their textbooks to do work in class or to go over assigned work from the night before.

Although more teachers have been using online resources for work both in and out of the classroom, many students still face the burden of heavy books, on top of handouts, notebooks, and other supplies.

Medical teams have studied the issue of backpack weight for years, as it has been connected to serious back and shoulder pain in teenagers. A study at the University of California at San Diego in 2005, led by a UCSD School of Medicine team, simply concluded that student’s backpacks need to be reduced in weight in order to improve the physical health of students.

Pressures put on the back and uneven weight distribution on one shoulder caused by side bags are huge contributors to shoulder and lower back pain, small injuries that can turn into chronic problems.
Children are now carrying an average of 22% of their body weight in their bags, a percentage, which according to the UCSD team, is extremely unhealthy. Back injuries are some of the most difficult to cure completely, and often times lead to more serious problems later in life.

Students at Newton South, many of whom have loaded schedules, have excessive weight added to their bags as teachers require them to come prepared to class each day with heavy books and a multitude of handouts.
Senior Nick Kozlov has a backpack weighing 18 pounds. “Sometimes I have to walk with a hunch to keep from falling over backwards, he said. Kozlov’s situation is not an unusual case at South.

Many other students have the same problem, as is evident when walking down the hallways, with dozens of students passing by each minute, leaning to one side to compensate for the weight on the opposition shoulder, or leaning slightly forward as Kozlov does.

Some teachers, especially in freshman and sophomore classes, also have certain requirements for how their students must organize their class materials, such as separate binders and notebooks for each class.
In addition, because of the size of South as well as new rules regarding tardiness, lockers, that are given to students so that they can store extra books and binders, are not used as often as they should be. It is hard for students to find time to make it to their lockers during the five minutes of passing time, and if they do, it is very likely that they will be late for class.

An alternative that a few students have found for carrying heavy backpacks around is using rolling bags. However these bags pose a problem as well, as they are difficult to maneuver around the crowded hallways and up and down the many staircases around South.

Instead of students going out and buying rolling backpacks, which are more of an inconvenience than an assistance for many students, teachers need to start using more resources, such as the Internet, in order to communicate with their students.

Some teachers have begun using websites like LiveJournal and Google in order to post homework assignments, class schedules, and links to class reading assignments. There are still some teachers at South who are hesitant to make these changes, but it is becoming apparent that some form of change is necessary for the health of the students.

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