- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 6, 2000

PHILADELPHIA

Thirteen-year-old Sierra Stanczyk says the amount of schoolwork she's assigned can be a pain.

"Sometimes I have to carry home three or four textbooks and sometimes two notebooks per class," said the eighth-grader at Marlton Middle School in New Jersey. "Sometimes it weighs a lot and my back hurts a little when I come home."

Prompted by several years of complaints from doctors and parents, schools across the country are trying to ease the physical stress kids suffer when weighed down with backpacks.

Some schools are bringing in chiropractors to teach students how to maintain good posture while carrying heavy loads.

Several hundred schools from Bellevue, Wash., to Tarpon Springs, Fla., allow students to carry backpacks to and from school, but once inside the building, the gear must remain in their lockers. The restrictions are mostly for elementary and middle schools.

"Kids are pack rats," said principal Scott Hoopes of southern New Jersey's Collingswood Middle School. "Besides carrying all their books, they'll carry their clothes, their whole life will be in there. "We had kids with health concerns with their backs because they were carrying so much," he said, adding that overweight packs are "like having a person on your back all the time."

Dr. Wayne Yankus of the American Academy of Pediatrics said back pain among children has worsened in the last 5 to 10 years.

"We don't think it will cause long-term damage," said the Ridgewood, N.J., pediatrician. "For your typical boy or girl, it creates off-balance back pain, but the jury is still out on what these kids will look like in the years to come."

The academy recommends children carry no more than 10 percent to 20 percent of their own body weight and that bags should typically weigh less than 15 pounds.

Some schools, such as Stoddard Fleisher Middle School in Philadelphia, purchase extra textbooks so teachers have one classroom set and students have copies at home.

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