KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Over the weekend, Austin-East Magnet High School sent an email to parents outlining new security measures to begin this year. This comes after the deaths of three Austin-East students in a month: Justin Taylor (15), Stanley Freeman Jr. (16), and Janaria Muhammad (15) were all shot and killed not far from the school.
Their deaths and the proximity to the school in which they happened, prompted school officials to put more security protocols in place to keep students safe.
Among the new policies, increased police presence, random searches, upgrades to security cameras, and a new clear backpack policy.
With it being so late in the school year, and parents only having a two-week deadline, some parents were worried about the cost, especially those who have more than one child enrolled.
But now, parents don’t have to worry. Enough backpacks for every Austin-East student have been donated, and some Knoxville neighbors are still raising money for the school.
Brandi Kuch was one of the people who immediately jumped into action when she heard about the new backpack policy. She doesn’t have students at Austin-East or live in East Knoxville, but she felt compelled to help.
“I saw a Facebook post this morning that they were having to go to clear backpacks within the next two weeks. And I instantly felt led to do something about that because I know the financial burden on those parents and they’ve been through enough in the past month. and those families and students and parents and teachers so there was something I wanted to do to try to help,” Kuch said.
Kuch was able to raise $5,000 thousand dollars through social media in less than 24 hours, but someone had already donated the backpacks before she could give the money to the school.
“We wanted to give the backpacks somebody else had the same idea and I’m all for it. But I also talked to the secretary at AE and she said they still need supplies. It’s the end of the year but its act time and these kids need pencils, they need paper, they’re prepping so we need to do everything we can to try and help them out,” Kuch said.
Now that money will go toward other needs the school has.
When Austin-East parent Breyauna Holloway first heard about the new backpack policy, she was worried about the cost. She has two children at the school.
“I just bought backpacks at the beginning of the school year. The girls one probably cost around 60 dollars,” Holloway said.
But now that cost is no longer a factor, Holloway can shift her main focus back to her kids’ safety. She thinks the backpacks are a step in the right direction.
“I’m definitely glad that there were so many people that decided to bless Austin-East with a backpack. That took a burden off my shoulders and I’m sure it took a burden off of so many families,” Holloway said.
“While the violence may not be happening inside the school, we don’t know who’s doing the killings. So if you don’t have any suspects, your suspect could be anybody and it’s better to do everything you can to keep them safe inside and outside the school.”
While Holloway is looking at the backpacks as a necessary precaution, some parents and students on social media say that because the violence hasn’t happened inside the school or even on campus, they think it’s unnecessary for students to have to carry clear bags.
The clear backpack policy goes into effect March 8. Brandi Kuch is still collecting donations until Wednesday Feb. 24.
She’s taking donations at the following:
She’s also accepting physical checks. Every dollar raised will be matched by the Siddiqi Foundation. All proceeds will go to Austin-East.