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Almost every week you hear news about violence in schools. You hear of kids bringing knives or guns to school. We have all heard the recent news of children walking into their school and killing students and teachers."Does your school provide proper security and safety for your children?"
There are also cases of adults walking into schools, taking hostages and even killing students and teachers in their path.
* Do you know what measures the school has in place to keep your child safe?
* Does the school system perform background checks before hiring new personnel?
* Does the school have security officers in the school?
* Does the school have security cameras?
* Does the school have metal detectors?
* Does the school train the faculty and staff in violence prevention?
* What are the procedures for visitors entering the school?
* Are you doing anything to make sure the school is safe for your children?
Did you know the answers to these questions? If your answer is "NO", then you need the information on this page.
Many school systems do not have the money to hire security officers or put in security cameras. They rely on students, faculty and staff to report any potentially dangerous situations. But, if the school is not training the students, faculty and staff in what to look for and how to respond, then the system will fail in keeping everyone safe.
Ask the school if they would allow you to volunteer at least part of a day to help keep an eye on things. All of the parents need to band together to become more educated with the schools security and safety policies. Schools and school systems will only change when parents become more proactive and tell them what the parents expect in school safety.
The information listed on this page may help you find the answers to the questions listed above.
Communicate with Your Child's School About Safety
Questions to ask your child's principal
Safety is always in season, so make sure you talk with your child's school about how they are handling this critical issue.
Ask the school principal the following questions. Then communicate your safety expectations using the sample letter below.
* Do you have a policy manual or teacher's handbook? May I have a copy or review it here?
* Is the safety of the students the first item addressed in the policy or handbook? If not, why not?
* Is the safety of students addressed at all?
* Are there policies addressing violence, weapons, drug use, sexual abuse, child-on-child sexual abuse, unauthorized visitors?
* Are background investigations performed on all staff?
* Who gathers the information?
* Who in the administration reviews the information and determines the suitability for employment?
* What are the criteria for disqualifying an applicant?
* Does the screening process apply to all employees (teachers, janitors, lunchroom staff, security personnel, part-time employees, bus drivers, etc.)?
* Is there a nurse on site at all times while children are present (including before and after school)?
* What is the nurse's education or training?
* Can my child call me at any time?
* May I visit my child at any time?
* What is your policy for when to contact parents?
* What are the parent notification procedures?
* What are the student pickup procedures?
* How is it determined that someone other than I can pick up my child?
* How does the school address special situations (custody disputes, kidnapping concerns, etc.)?
* Are older children separated from younger children during recess, lunch, rest-room breaks, etc.?
* Are acts of violence or criminality at the school documented? Are statistics maintained?
* May I review the statistics?
* What violence or criminality has occurred at the school during the last three years?
* Is there a regular briefing of teachers and administrators to discuss safety and security issues?
* Are teachers formally notified when a child with a history of serious misconduct is introduced to their class?
* What is the student-to-teacher ratio in class? During recess? During meals?
* How are students supervised during visits to the rest room?
* Will I be informed of teacher misconduct that may have an impact on the safety or well-being of my child?
* Are there security personnel on the premises?
* Are security personnel provided with written policies and guidelines?
* Is student safety the first issue addressed in the security policy and guidelines material? If not, why not?
* Is there a special background investigation conducted on security personnel, and what does it encompass?
* Is there any control over who can enter the grounds?
* If there is an emergency in a classroom, how does the teacher summon help?
* If there is an emergency on the playground, how does the teacher summon help?
* What are the policies and procedures covering emergencies (fire, civil unrest, earthquake, violent intruder, etc.)?
* How often are emergency drills performed?
* What procedures are followed when a child is injured?
* What hospital would my child be transported to in the event of a serious injury?
* Can I designate a different hospital? A specific family doctor?
* What police station responds to the school?
* Who is the school's liaison at the police department?
Letter to send to your child's school
Dear (Principal's name),
Our child, (child's name), is attending your school this year. We recognize that schools face special challenges these days and we want to be certain our expectations are reasonable. If we're off base on any of these items, please let us know:
* We expect the safety of the students to be a priority;
* We expect our child to be allowed to contact us at any time she feels the need;
* We expect the school to inform us of anything that might have an impact on her safety or well-being;
* We expect the school to comply with the policies of the school district;
* We expect the school to follow all available "supplemental screening practices" set forth in the DOJ Guidelines for the Screening of Persons Working With Children;
* We expect the school to be a weapons-free environment;
* While we authorize you to make decisions on our behalf about educational matters, we do not authorize you to make decisions on our behalf about life-and-death matters;
* We rely upon you or your designates to notify us of any threats to commit violent acts at the school. Even if our child is not specifically named, since she could be in the environment of targeted individuals, we want to be informed so we can evaluate the risks. We request that a safety committee of parents be formed, and that the committee be notified of all threats to commit violent acts;
* other points specific to your child.
Just as we hold you to your duty as principal, so do we ask you to hold us to ours as parents. On this point please advise us of ways we can help you develop a safer school. Knowing that you face bureaucratic, political, and budgetary challenges, there is surely something we can do to help.
We're confident that if your office and our family work together, our child will have the best possible experience at school. At the same time, we want to assist you in furthering the well-being of all the students.
(From: Protecting the Gift. Copyright 1999 by Gavin de Becker. Published by The Dial Press.)
Characteristics of a Safe School
Source: Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools, brought to you by the Department of Education.
NCEF Resource List: Safety and Security Design for SchoolsA checklist that combines the nation's best school facility assessment measures into one online source for assessing the safety and security of school ...
Research has demonstrated repeatedly that school communities can do a great deal to prevent violence. Effective prevention, intervention, and crisis response strategies operate best in school communities that:
* Focus on academic achievement.
* Promote good citizenship and character.
* Support students in making the transition to adult life and the workplace.
* Involve families in meaningful ways.
* Develop links to the community.
* Emphasize positive relationships among students and staff.
* Discuss safety issues openly.
* Help children feel safe expressing their feelings.
* Offer extended day programs for children.
* Identify problems and assess progress toward solutions.
* Treat students with equal respect.
School Safety Plan Review
Has the district developed a description of the policies and procedures related to school building security? Have collaborative agreements been made with ...