Last year, I received a message from my son’s school about a lock-down due to a stabbing at a nearby community college. I was frightened and worried about his safety. The feeling of helplessness prompted me to learn more about his school’s safety procedures.
After a little digging, I felt confident that the school was doing all they could to protect my son. As parents, we must be fully involved in all aspects of our children’s education including safety. Although we cannot be with our children at all times, we can have some input into what schools are doing to keep them safe. The keys to safer schools are information and involvement. Parents must know what’s happening at their children’s school and help to shape and implement safety and security policies.
During my 5 years as a safety professional, I learned many things about personal and organizational safety and security and I’d like to share a few of my recommendations on how parents can help to make schools safer.
Talk to administration about safety and security procedures
At the start of each school year, it’s important for parents to talk to the school’s administrators about the safety and security procedures. You need to understand how frequently they have drills and how they handle real emergencies. What are the lockdown procedures? How will they notify parents if there is an actual emergency? These procedures should be reviewed and revised on a regular basis and parents should have some input on how they are implemented. Ask the school to give you a printed copy of the procedures to peruse and provide feedback. Make sure that the administrators hold regular safety and security training sessions with the staff and that the teachers are aware of the school’s procedures.
Participate in the school’s PTA or PTO
Join your school’s PTA (Parent/Teacher Association) or PTO (Parent/Teacher Organization) and make school safety a regular agenda item. Encourage other parents to get involved to discuss these important issues.
Keep contact information up-to-date
Most school districts have system in place to notify parents in case of emergency. Make sure that your child’s school has your home phone number, cell phone number, and e-mail address so you won’t miss important alerts.
Encourage your child to speak up
Encourage your child to observe his or her surroundings and talk to the teacher if something doesn’t seem right. We must have frank discussions with our kids about the dangers that exist in the world. Teaching them to say something at the right moment could prevent a potential problem.
Help your child to identify all exits
Parents should be familiar with all areas of their child’s school. Walk through the hallways with your child to identify all exits and escape routes. Exits should be clearly marked and easily accessible. If exits are blocked or locked, contact the administration to correct these problems. Try to get a printed layout of the school if it is available.
Observe a safety drill
One of the best ways to understand the school’s safety and security procedures is to observe a drill. Administrators usually schedule these drills well in advance. Visit the school on one of the scheduled drill days and pay attention to how it’s handled. Is the drill orderly? Are the teachers and administrators giving clear instructions? Are the children paying attention and following directions? If you observe things that concern you, express these concerns to the administration.
Attend School Board meetings
Attend school board meeting and voice your concerns about school safety. Ask the superintendent and council members to discuss specific measures they are taking to improve school security through the district.
Although these tips may not prevent a dangerous situation, they will assist parents, students, and school administrators to be more prepared to take the proper actions to keep everyone safe.
Join the conversation: How do you help to make your child’s school safer?
photo by Ryan M.