When I first began teaching in 1985, life was a bit more simple. A certain innocence existed and parents felt relatively safe sending a child off with his shiny new backpack and freshly sharpened pencils. Now, with several school tragedies, many parents wonder if the sad events at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and other schools could possibly happen to their children?!
“Better safe than sorry” has been many of a parent’s motto, and the choosing of a public/private school based on safety as WELL as academics, might be a great consideration these days. Here are some things to inquire about while researching your child’s school:
1. In the case of a disaster, what is your child’s school’s plan of action? At the school where I am employed we have a course of action for tornadoes, building intruders, bomb threats and fires. We have monthly drills that allow the students and faculty to calmly practice these procedures.
2. Every school should keep a list of adults that have permission to check children out from school. Those adults who show up to the front desk must have proper identification to do so.
3. Visitors must check in at the front desk and receive a badge/label identifying themselves as an approved visitor. Some schools also require teachers and students to wear badges or picture IDs that will allow a casual observer to know “who is who”.
4. What is your child’s school’s policy on bullying? This should never be tolerated, and the educational facility should have conflict resolution plans, and guidance for those children who display behavior problems severe enough to affect others’ academics and emotional well-being.
5. Discuss, with the administration, any other safety issues (health issues such as building mold or asbestos, drugs on campus, weapons on campus, wellness programs , etc.) that concern you .
As a parent, you must discuss certain situations with your children. These include, who can check your children out from school in any given situation. Some parents have a special word that relatives/friends must know in order to assure the child that he /she was really acting on the parents’ behalf. Students should NEVER tell anyone online (Myspace.com, Facebook.com and chatrooms) what school they attend. If a child sees another child with a weapon, drugs, or hears valid threats against school officials, he or she should report knowledge right away. Bullying is not an option for your child, either as the victim or perpetrator. Have family discussions about this before your child even enters kindergarten! Encourage your child to be on his best behavior on the bus and in the classroom, as many rules are for a child’s safety. Standing up and dancing on a moving bus is against the rules because if the bus comes to a sudden stop, your child may become injured. I do not agree with children taking a cell phone to school, as it is often misused by children and does not lend itself to any additional safety for your child.
Keep open, friendly communication with your child’s school about any and all safety issues. In the state in which I teach (Florida) all schools are required to have a safety plan for all situations and to communicate those with parents. Do not be afraid to ask to see your child’s safety plans as well as his academic ones. Be safe and well!