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How do I find out if my child's school is really safe?

There has been a great deal of media coverage and public concern regarding safety in schools. Since the Columbine shooting, it is difficult for parents to feel at ease about their child's safety at school. Many school officials are looking for ways to train school personnel to better control and monitor the school campus environment.

Listed below are some violence-reduction strategies that are being used in many schools across the nation:

  • Teach prevention skills. Students are being taught how to handle their emotions without hurting others through problem-solving and effective communication skills. Safe behavior is also being actively encouraged, with students performing more activities in groups, reporting situations that may be harmful to other students, and also notifying school personnel about strangers on campus.

  • Provide alternatives to gang affiliation. Activities that build self-esteem and empowerment are being offered to students to deter them from involving themselves with gangs. Some schools are providing special assistance to students who are at risk by informing parents and school staff about gangs and teaching students how to avoid being drawn into gang activities.

  • Improve school designs. Because safety has become such a significant concern, new school buildings are being designed and older ones are being renovated in many school districts. School offices are now being designed to be centrally located to allow easy access from other areas on campus. Hallways are well lit and have exits that are easy to locate. Dead end hallways and/or staircases that would make good hiding places are being eliminated. Restrooms are being constructed closer to the administration offices to discourage students from "hanging out."

  • Monitor visitors closely. All visitors are required to check in at the office and obtain a school pass before being permitted on campus. Staff and students are typically instructed to report anyone not wearing proper identification on campus.

Parents can take an active role in helping their child practice safe behavior by providing information and guidance on the following points:

  • Do not talk to strangers. Children should be encouraged to get to know not only their teachers but other school staff as well. Doing this will help them to recognize strangers on campus.

  • Use the buddy system. Encourage your child to walk with friends or other groups of students in school hallways. Suggest that he/she use the restroom at break times when there are other students around the area.

  • Choose friends wisely. Talk to your child about students who are bullies and/or students who do not handle anger well. Advise him/her to let school personnel know if another student ever threatens him/her or if another student brings any type of weapon to school.

As a parent you should be prepared to ask the school about their particular safety policy. To help you feel comfortable at your child's school, visit the campus. Make sure that you make an appointment before you go. Here are some things you can do to help monitor the overall safety of the school:

  • Take a look around. While you are on the campus ask yourself a few questions. Do you feel comfortable? Do the students and staff seem to be respectful of each other? Are they interacting with each other? Is the campus clean? Are hallways, emergency exits, and staircases well lit and empty? How would you describe the condition of the bathrooms and cafeteria? The condition of the campus as a whole can reveal a lot about the attitude of the people who spend their days there.

  • Ask about the discipline policies. Learn the discipline policies and procedures of your school.

  • Investigate the Parent-Teacher Association. By becoming a member of the PTA you will come in close and frequent contact with other parents and school personnel and stay informed of major school issues.




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