Whether you’re sending your first child off to kindergarten or your third off to junior high, every parent spends time wondering what’s happening at school that day. And in today’s world, that time might specifically be spent considering safety issues around the school.
Common safety issues make us all wonder how we can keep our children safe when they are at school. Here are some things you can do to help relieve your worries.
Review the school’s emergency plans.
Perhaps the most important thing a parent can do is maintain an open dialogue with the school and understand their policies. It’s critical that parents be aware of the systems and procedures that are in place for emergency situations. While this is usually listed in a school handbook, it is written in general terms and does not answer specific questions. Therefore, it’s best to review this with a school administrator at the beginning of the school year. Here are three questions to consider asking:
- What happens if there is a natural disaster, fire, or potential intruder at the school?
- Does the school have a lock down procedure and how frequently is this practiced with the students?
- If your child normally takes the bus home, what would happen if there was an evacuation or lock down?
It’s important that parents consider a variety of scenarios and have the school administrator address each one. Once you have a clear understanding of these plans, review them with your child at home. Make sure they memorize your cell phone number as well as home number and know the phone number for your emergency contact.
Additionally, you and your partner should have a plan as to who will pick up the child in case of an emergency and in the event that phones are out of service. A meeting place away from your home should also be established in the case that roads are inaccessible.
Find out if the school enforces a zero tolerance policy.
Bullying has always been a problem in schools and, at times, difficult to monitor. Review the schools bullying policy and determine what messages are communicated to the children about bullying.
If you sense your child is being bullied, bring this to the attention of the teacher immediately. Discuss the situation with your child and arrange a meeting with the teacher to closely monitor the situation.
Brainstorm with your child different ways to deal with a bully and keep the lines of communication open. Keep detailed notes and, if the problem does not improve, elevate the issue to the principal and, if necessary, the superintendent. Proactive measures are extremely important in reducing incidents of bullying in schools.
When speaking with a school administrator, determine what programs are in place to help promote self-esteem and respect for others. Does the school have counselors and psychologists on staff to deal with children who have anger issues or behavioral problems? And, is there a component of the curriculum that teaches conflict resolution and anger management?
Make everyone in the school aware of your child’s medical issues.
Regardless of whether you have filled out a form listing your child’s allergies and medical issues, meet with the teacher at the beginning of the year to inform her directly and follow-up with a written note. If your child is younger, explain the importance of not sharing food with friends who might have allergies. Many schools now have nut-free rooms or tables at the cafeteria. If this is not the case in your school, meet with the principal and school nurse to discuss this possibility. Brainstorm and recommend to the teacher tasty alternatives to cupcakes for birthday parties if your child has a gluten allergy.
Find out how the school manages visitors.
Make sure you know their policy on visitors to the school, how they monitor people entering and leaving the building and what sort of background checks are done on everyone who works in the building, including custodial staff.
Safety should be addressed in all aspects of the school including the cafeteria, playground, classrooms and after school programs. How willing and able they are to address your questions will give you a clear indication of how important your child’s safety is to them.
It takes collaboration between parents, teachers and administrators to create a safe school environment. Safety programs that involve the parents, students and teachers will not only foster a strong bond between home and school but will send a positive and supportive message to your child.