DEAR ABBY: As a lawyer who represents injured people, and as someone who has a back injury, I read with interest the letter in your column from "An Outraged Grandparent," who was angry that her granddaughter was suffering severe back pain from the 20 pounds of books she was required to carry to and from school each day.
I heartily agree with your idea of a rolling briefcase or luggage cart. I have used one myself since my back injury. However, it is important that the student and her grandmother know that they should not view the school's policies as unchangeable. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that schools make reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation in this situation would likely legally require the school to provide a locker for the student, or be more flexible in allowing her to carry lighter books, perhaps by cutting the books into sections.
If the student's teachers are unwilling to cooperate, I would strongly suggest that she complain to the principal. If this is ineffective, the family should file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education. An inquiry from the Department of Education often causes school officials to become far more accommodating than they previously thought possible. -- STEVEN FEINSTEIN, SAN FRANCISCO
DEAR STEVEN: I'm certain that "Outraged Grandparent" will be grateful for your professional opinion, and thank you for it. Since I printed that letter, I have received many sympathetic letters offering helpful advice for the granddaughter. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Most kids carry their backpacks too low on their backs. This puts a lot of strain on the lower back and spine. The load should be carried high on the back, which puts more of the weight on the shoulders.
As a former Marine, I've had to carry a lot more than 20 pounds, and have done so for 10 to 15 miles. I have learned that the higher you carry your load, the easier it is on your back. It's not how much you carry, but how you carry it. -- AN OLD MARINE
DEAR OLD MARINE: Because backpacks are so popular, I'm sure many students will benefit from your years of experience. Thanks for the input. Semper Fi! Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I am a college student who had many physical problems in high school.
Since the girl is seeing a chiropractor, her chiropractor should write a note to the school stating her condition. It should be given to the principal, and if need be, to the school board. The school can issue her a second set of books, which she can leave in her desk or with the teacher. My teachers were glad to do this for me. If a note from the chiropractor is not acceptable, the girl should get one from an orthopedic specialist.
The teachers should also be willing to bend on the binder issue. The grandmother should make sure her granddaughter uses soft binders. They weigh less and take up less room than hard binders.
A final thought: I have seen backpacks with wheels. They are quite large and have a plastic handle that slides out from the back for pulling. Luggage shops carry them and so do college bookstores. -- S.H. IN NEW ORLEANS
DEAR S.H.: Dozens of readers advised me that backpacks with wheels are available in luggage stores, discount department stores, etc.