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A Note from the Teacher

             By Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.

Safety at Your Child's School

With the news of another school tragedy so recently in the news, it is natural for parents to wonder about the safety of their child's school. While it is important to remember that statistically these events are rare, the spotlight of media attention brings forward natural concerns about safety in every school building across the country. It is important for schools to be safe for children, without becoming prison-like in atmosphere. There are, however, common-sense practices that parents can encourage their schools to adopt to help avoid security problems.

Regulated Access to School Buildings

Schools are, by necessity, places where hundreds of people enter and leave each day. There are multiple entrances or exits, as is required for safe exit of students in an emergency. However, schools can have procedures in place which maximize their control over who enters buildings. Exterior doors should be locked to outside visitors, while maintaining the ability to be opened from inside the school in case of emergency. Schools should have a monitored entrance during the school day for visitors and parents. Some schools use a buzzer system to allow people to enter; other schools rely on a person to open exterior doors to visitors. Either way, most schools will also require that visitors sign in at a central office location, so their presence is documented; many also require visitor badges to be displayed at all times when in the building. People found not to have these may be stopped by staff members in the building.

Though all of this can create additional time for visitors waiting to enter schools, it is essential that school personnel know who is entering the building for the safety of all of the children inside. Please remember to be patient if it takes a few extra minutes to enter your child's school building because of these measures.

Careful Monitoring of Children at Outdoor Times

Recess and other times of outdoor activity are some of the favorite activities of all school aged children. However, having a large number of children in a very open atmosphere creates safety concerns that differ from those found inside of the school building.

Most schools provide several staff members to monitor students while they are outside. Some schools have fenced in areas that serve to protect children from people or animals that may wander into the area, while other schools have larger areas that are easily monitored. At times, certain portions of the school grounds may be declared off-limits to the public to be sure to safe-guard students' well-being. All of these procedures are for the safety of students in the school.

Due to these concerns, it is important that children are also made aware of procedures that are in place to protect them. They should know that they should never leave the play area, even with a parent, without informing the teacher of their whereabouts. Also, if they notice an unfamiliar person in the area, they should know to immediately contact the outside monitors, who can then decide of action is necessary. Even though parents and other relatives or visitors may sometimes be identified as "strangers" at first, please be understanding and know that it is important for both teachers and students to remain protective of their safe play areas.

Safety from Within

Some of the most tragic losses have been initiated not from outside of the school walls, but from within. But it is just as important to realize that there have been many plans that have been thwarted because of the diligence and courage of staff and students working together inside of the school to maintain a safe environment. To encourage this safety partnership between students and schools, it is important that children know when and who to inform if they believe they have important information to share.

Parents can work to foster this partnership between their children and the school by working with their children at home. Speaking to children about the difficulty of peer pressure and the need to belong can help open the lines of communication which allow children to share any concerns they might have. Parents can also have discussions with their children to let them know that there are many people who they can turn to if they have serious concerns, including teachers, administrators, guidance personnel, nurses, and any other staff member with whom they are comfortable; they should be encouraged to continue speaking out until they feel their concerns are addressed. Everyone in a school is dedicated to preserving the safety of the children, and students need to know that they have a position of power in maintaining that environment for themselves and their friends.

Safety is Everyone's Job

In all, it takes all eyes to be vigilant- students, staff, and parents- in order for the school to be safe for students. When encountering a safety procedure that seems unnecessary or time-consuming to you, please remember that though your best intentions are for your child and their classmates, the precautions are in place to protect them from the few people whose intentions are not so clear.

If you have questions or concerns about the safety of your child's school, please contact the building principal to discuss your feelings. They will likely be happy to share their practices and procedures with you.

About Jennifer Cummings

Ms. Cummings has a psychology, and a M.Ed. in special education from Framingham State College in Massachusetts. She has been an elementary teacher in Massachusetts for almost 10 years, serving both regular education and special education students. She has taught grades 1,4, and 5.

"I believe that families' involvement in their child's education is one of the key ingredients to creating a successful school experience for children. Keeping parents informed about school-related issues helps parents and teachers work together for the best possible outcomes for their children. Learning together makes learning fun - for everyone!" - Jennifer Cummings. Contact her at A Note from the Teacher . School Articles Archive

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This Month's Topic: School Safety

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