When many people think about school safety for children, they typically think about bullying and other dangers lurking within the school day. However did you know that most safety risks occur when students are traveling to and from school? But this doesn’t mean parents and school faculty should make light of the potential dangers within the school, either.
Traveling to and from school
Traveling to and from school can be exciting for some children but it also can be quiet dangerous. Most accidents and fatalities occur when a student is en route to the school or coming home from school. Many of these accidents can be avoided. Parents and teachers need to talk with their children about safety tips when traveling to and from school.
Before the school year begins, plan the safest route for your child to walk either to the bus stop or directly to school. The same goes for students riding their bicycles to and from school. Choosing the most direct path with limited street crossings will lower the chances of mishaps on the way and coming home from school. Also consider a route that allows the child to avoid vacant lots and parks. Once you have decided on the best route, be sure to walk the route several times with your child so it becomes familiar to them.
Make sure the child knows to obey all traffic signals and to pay attention to the crossing guard’s signals. Another good safety tip is to teach your child to look both ways before crossing the street. Be sure they get into the habit of looking to the left, looking to the right, and looking again to the left before crossing the street. When possible, be sure the child knows to walk along the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is available, have them walk along the curb facing against the flow of traffic. Also emphasize that listening to music via headphones can be distracting leaving them less alert to any dangers.
Another great tip is to try to organize a walking or bike riding group. There is always safety in numbers. Besides, it will allow the child to socialize a bit before and after school. Strangers lurking and waiting to potentially harm your child would be less likely to approach a group of children.
Speaking of stranger danger, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children report that an estimated 35 percent of children abducted occurs when the children are traveling to and from school. Be sure to talk to your children and students about stranger safety. Some of the key points for children to remember is to never talk to anyone they don’t know. Also explain why they shouldn’t accept candy and gifts from strangers or anyone while en route to the school or coming home. It is also a good idea to role play scenarios with the child so they will know what to do in case someone tries to abduct them. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has some great tips and advice for teaching children about stranger safety tips. The FBI also has safety tips on their kid-friendly page that allows children to learn more about a variety of safety tips.
For children riding a bicycle or a scooter to and from school, be sure they have the proper safety equipment. This includes a sturdy helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads. Also be sure that the safety equipments fit properly. The US Consumer and Product Safety Commission recommend that children under the age of 12 should not ride motorized scooters due to the statistically higher risk of injury.
More bus safety tips
Have your child arrive to the bus stop a little early. Also remind them to stay out of the road while waiting on the bus to arrive. Before they prepare to load onto the bus or get off the bus, they need to be sure the bus has come to a complete stop. It is also important for students to understand that they should never cross in front of the bus, stop to tie their shoes in front of a bus, or even pick up something they have dropped. The bus driver has difficulty seeing objects and people that close to the bus, therefore whatever was dropped isn’t worth the child’s life, nor is tying shoelaces.
When on the bus, children should stay seated at all times. Do not allow students to hang their arms or heads out the windows. Also keep the bus aisle free from debris including backpacks and children’s feet. Although is some cases it is alright to talk with your peers, remind the student to keep the volume down low so as not to distract the driver. This also goes for not throwing objects on the bus.
Tips for drivers
Whether you have a child attending school or not, drivers should be cautious not only around school zones but in neighborhoods where children may be walking to or from school. Many unfortunate accidents can be avoided by following some simple safety tips when driving.
Slowing down in a school zone is law, but did you know that drivers should also reduce their speed in areas around the school, especially residential areas? Most injuries and accidents occur when a child decides to cross the street midway instead of at a crosswalk. Drivers need to stay alert by paying attention to children walking on the sidewalk as well as the road.
Also avoid using your cell phone. Texting while driving is illegal in many states in the United States but talking on the phone while driving can be just as dangerous. Even if you have the hands-free capability, drivers can become distracted in conversation instead of paying attention to the road and to what’s going on around them.
Most school zones have crossing guards. Be sure to pay close attention to the crossing guard’s signals and to what is going on around you. Don’t assume it is alright for you to go just because it looks clear. Crossing guards have a system and better vantage point than you do. They also put the safety of the children first before worrying about whether a driver is in a hurry to get to a destination.
Sometimes stopping for a bus to load or unload children can be trying for some driver’s patience, especially if in a hurry. However, there is a very important reason why drivers should stop and not attempt to pass a school bus. When the bus is stopped, it will have out a stop sign on the driver’s side and its lights will be flashing. This is to signal that children are getting on or getting off the bus. Children may still cross in front of the bus and the impatient driver who wanted to ignore the law by trying to pass the bus may inadvertently run over a child crossing.
On the playground
The playground can be a wonderful time of fun for children, giving them a break from the classroom. However, there are safety tips to consider so that a time of fun and play does not turn into tragedy. Parents, teachers, and other faculty members should frequently check the playground equipment for damage, such as rust, broken pieces, dangerous surfaces, and making sure there is enough sand, pea-size gravel, or mulch in the playground area. Also make sure that the playground equipment is anchored properly at all times.
Another big danger on the playground is coats and jackets with strings, especially hood strings. These strings could get caught in playground equipment, such as slides, and cause injury and death to the child.
Many times the playground is the most opportune time for bullying to occur. Teachers need to keep a close eye on the children and encourage no pushing, shoving, or rough housing of any kind. Parents and teachers can teach children what to do in the event that they may encounter a bully. McGuff the Crime Dog has excellent advice for children regarding bullying. The website uses videos, games and much more to teach kids how to recognize and deal with bullying.
In the classroom
Although many parents think the classroom is a safe place for kids, there are some hidden and not so hidden dangers here. Teach children to keep their area and the classroom clean and free of clutter. Injuries in the classroom typically come from tripping over something. Also teach the students to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze and to wash their hands frequently along with using anti-bacterial gel. This will help limit the amount of sick days students use.
Attending school should be a safe and rewarding experience. By following simple safety tips, it will help limit the opportunity for accidents or tragedy to occur. When approaching children about safety tips, do so in a way that won’t frighten them but instead empower them.