Providing a safe learning environment is one of the most important actions of a quality school. Maintaining that environment is the responsibility of the staff, students, parents and community members. Schools need to have well-established plans and procedures in place to deal with safety issues, disruptive students and potential problems that may threaten our children.
Statistically, schools continue to be the safest places for our children. When you walk into a school, what are some signs to look for to ensure that your child’s school is a safe haven? Here is a list to get you started.
Safety Sign #1: Tidy Grounds
When the school building and surrounding property are clean, well lit and well maintained, a sense of safety and security prevails. A dirty school or one that lacks lit corridors should raise red flags as signs of caution that security and safety are not considered a priority. If the walkways around the school is also not lit, especially during afterschool programs and evening events, there is a chance that children may get injured because it may be hard to see where to walk. Worse yet, someone could come onto school property without being seen.
Safety Sign #2: A Closed Campus
It is extremely important for schools to know about the visitors on campus. All school visitors should be directed to the main office, required to sign in and asked to carry a visitor’s badge or pass for the duration of their visit. Some schools have a system that scans a person’s drivers license. With the aid of a national database, the scan screens for potential sexual predators.
Checking to see if your child’s school follows specific procedures to restrict access and monitor visitors is crucial for campus safety.
Safety Sign #3: A Sign-Out Policy
Say your child gets sick— does the school know who can and cannot sign your child out of school? Emergency contact information is critical, especially for families that are going through divorce or have other special situations. Schools should never allow a child to go home with any person. Parents need to be vigilant. List trusted alternate family members and friends on your child’s emergency contact sheet. Inform these adults that they need to present a picture ID for the school to release your child. And be mindful of the other ways that your child’s school handles the sign-out policy.
Safety Sign #4: Security Monitors
Does your school have security monitors, police officers and/or school officials in the hallways and on the school grounds? One of the most effective means of preventing crime within a school is to have a school’s staff monitor the hallways and school grounds. A safe school has easily identified staff security members who constantly walk the hallways or stand guard at designated spots throughout the school, watching and observing. Find out if school resource officials and city police officers visit the school on a regular basis or patrol the area around the school daily.
Safety Sign #5: Crisis Prevention
No bully zone! That is the slogan that can be seen throughout many schools today. Does your child’s school have established anti-bullying and crisis prevention programs? One of the most important features of such programs is to have a way for children to anonymously report an impending crisis or that they are being bullied. Talk to your child’s school counselor or principal and ask what bullying and prevention programs exist.
Safety Sign #6: School Discipline
All classroom teachers should send home their class rules and policies at the beginning of each school year. Students as well as parents should know the rules and consequences regarding bad behavior. Along with this teacher policy, schools should provide parents and students with a school handbook. This handbook should address important information about the school. A quality school will have a parent handbook that addresses school policies, procedures and rules. When everyone knows the rules, everyone knows what is expected and there are few, if any, emergencies.
School safety goes beyond what can be seen on a tour of the school. For a school to be a safe learning environment, the faculty, staff members, students and parents must be aware of the safety and security measures for handling any type of disturbance that might occur. As a parent, you have the right to ask questions concerning these safety issues.
An Essential Checklist
When investigating your school of choice, can you answer “yes” to the following questions?
- Does the school appear to be clean and hazard-free?
- Does the school have a safety coordinator who is responsible for maintaining a safe and healthy environment?
- Does the school have an anonymous way for students to report a conflict, crime or crisis, especially if another student might be involved?
- Does the school have a crisis prevention plan?
- Does the school have procedures to respond quickly and efficiently when a crisis situation does occur?
- Has the school informed parents, teachers, students and the community about crisis procedures?
- Does the school have a fair and consistent discipline procedure in place?
- Does the school have counselors and psychologists available to students in need?
- Does the school involve the community, teachers, students, parents and officials in safety efforts?
- Investigating the answers to these questions gives you a thorough understanding of your child’s school.