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Discipline & Safety        < Previous        Next >


How Can Parents Help Keep Kids Safe in School?


Q. Seems like every other day you hear about some wacko who brought a gun to school, or some teacher who got arrested for sexually abusing a student. There's gang graffiti, and drug trafficking, metal detectors even in placid suburban schools, and since 9/11 it seems there's always the threat of some kind of terrorist attack. It's all pretty scary. What should I be doing to help ensure the safety of my children and others?


Start with your own family, first. Don't be ashamed or afraid of snooping in your child's stuff. Look in his or her bookbag from time to time, and check out drawers, closets and under mattresses. What if you find drugs, weapons, pornography or other scary stuff? That's why you're checking! Be glad, because you might have saved a life by confiscating it. It's amazing how many times parents prevent untold misery, death, injury and all the rest, simply by acting like a responsible parent and being willing to check for the signs of criminal behavior or intent. If you don't find anything, be glad - and hope that other parents will have your courage and integrity.


Beyond that, here's a list of 10 suggestions for parents from Ken Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services. See his website in Homework, below, for more information:


1. Ask your child about safety in his or her school. Students often know where gaps in security exist and what can be done to improve school safety.  Where do they feel most safe? Least safe? Why? What can be done to improve safety?   


2.  Identify comfort levels and methods for reporting safety concerns.  Do students have at least one adult they would feel comfortable in reporting safety concerns to at school? Are there other methods (hotlines, email tip lines, etc.) for students to report concerns? Are parents comfortable in addressing safety concerns with school administrators?


3.  Examine access to your school.  Are there a reduced number of doors that can be accessed from the outside (while still allowing children to exit from the inside in an emergency)?  Do faculty and staff greet visitors, challenge strangers and know who is in their school? Are there sign-in procedures, visitor identification badges, etc.?


4.  Find out if your school has policies and procedures on security and emergency preparedness.  Does your board and administration have written policies and procedures related to security, crisis preparedness planning, and overall school safety planning? If so, are they communicated clearly and regularly to students, school employees and parents? How? When?

5.  Determine if your school has a "living" school safety team, safety plan and ongoing process, as well as a school crisis team and school emergency/crisis preparedness guidelines.  Does your school have a school safety committee to develop an overall plan for prevention, intervention, and security issues? Are these plans balanced and not just prevention-only or security-only? Is there a school crisis team to deal with emergency planning?  Who are members of the safety committee and crisis team? How often do they meet? Is there a written school crisis plan? Are there written emergency/crisis guidelines? Are these plans and guidelines reviewed regularly - at least once a year?


6.  Inquire with school and public safety officials as to whether school officials use internal security specialists and outside public safety resources to develop safety plans and crisis guidelines.  Do school officials actively involve internal school security specialists, School Resource Officers, and other school safety specialists in developing safety plans and crisis guidelines? Do school officials have meaningful, working relationships with police, fire and other public safety agencies serving their schools? Are they involved on school safety committees and teams and/or do they have direct input on school plans?  


7. Ask if school emergency/crisis guidelines are tested and exercised. Do school officials test and exercise written crisis guidelines?  What type of tests do they do? For example, if they have a lockdown procedure, do they conduct periodic drills to practice them? If they cannot have full-scale exercises of emergency plans (which are often difficult to do), do they at least do tabletop exercises to test written plans?


8. Determine whether school employees, including support personnel, have received training on school security and crisis preparedness issues.  Have school employees received training on security and emergency strategies by local, state and/or national specialists? Have employees also received training on their school/district specific crisis guidelines?  Are all employees, including support personnel such as secretaries and custodians, included in such training? How often is such training provided? Is the training provided by qualified and experienced instructors with knowledge of K-12 specific safety issues? 


9. Find out if school officials use outside resources and sources in their ongoing school safety assessments.  Do school officials subscribe to current publications addressing security issues? Do they attend conferences and programs on school safety? Have they reviewed their security measures, crisis guidelines and safety plans with recommendations by school safety experts?  

10. Honestly evaluate whether you, as a parent, are doing your part in making schools safe.  Do you follow parking, visitor, and other safety procedures at your school? Do you support teachers and administrators with safety initiatives, including by asking the above questions in a supportive, non-blaming manner? Do you talk with your child about personal safety considerations, drug and violence prevention issues, and related topics early and regularly at home?  Do you seek professional help for your child in a timely manner, if needed?


Homework: Check for more information.


By Susan Darst Williams Discipline & Safety 05 2008


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