Is Going Back to School Safe this Year?
As we gear up for the new school year, it is important to remember some of the changes that could lie ahead for your children. After Newtown and unfortunately so many others now, we need to help our children understand that schools are safe. We also need to help them cope with the anxiety over what they hear on the news and from friends.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there is less than a 2% chance that I child would be gravely injured or killed while at school. That does not mean, however, we should ignore good security and safety practices.
Increased Security Sweeping Across the Nation
Some school districts have added armed guards, cameras and locking hardware to monitor who enters the building. In addition, administrators have even armed teachers and provided children with armor-plated back packs. While improvements to security technology are wonderful, they cannot prevent a school shooting. No system is full-proof.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, lawmakers in every state in the nation introduced school safety legislation this year, and in at least 20 states those proposals became law. Schools have also initiated new policies and procedures. One training program called "A.L.I.C.E." for instance, -- which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate – has received mixed reviews, as it's been fiercely debated about whether it puts students in harm's way.
Back to School Security Checklist
So what can you do to promote school safety? I suggest reviewing the following concerns and questions with your school administration:
- What policies and procedures they have in place? What has changed post Newtown?
- How do they plan to communicate with parents prior to and post an event should one occur? This is critical for all parties to know what to expect for regular communication and how to react should an event occur at your school.
- How often do they drill/test and what does that consist of?
- What type of crisis plan is in place and who is part of that team?
- Does the administration partner with external resources to complete assessments of the schools and to review policies and procedures? When was the last assessment and by whom?
- Should your child notice something or have a concern, how should they report it and to whom? What is the school's policy to engage children in the process?
- Does your school have a safety committee? If yes, who participates on this team and how often do they meet?
In addition, it's crucial to speak with your children. Ask them how they feel about safety at school. They are often the first to know what works and what does not, and providing them with a chance to speak openly and calmly about it will provide them with confidence.
While we all hope to prevent a tragedy like Newtown, the reality is these horrific events will continue to occur. Our best efforts to avoid will undoubtedly fall back to how we respond. Take the time to know what you and your child should do if something happens at their school. We often avoid the tough conversations with children but this is not one of those topics to miss.