What can a parent do? What does a parent need to know? What should a parent look for related to school safety at their child’s school?
Ask your teen about safety at their school. Teens often know where gaps in security exist and what can be done to improve school safety. Where does your teen feel most safe? Least safe? Why? What can be done to improve safety?
Identify you teen’s comfort level and method for reporting safety concerns. Does your teen have at least one adult he/she would feel comfortable reporting safety concerns to at school? Are there other methods (hotlines, email tip lines) for teens to report concerns? Are parents comfortable in addressing safety concerns with school administrators?
Examine access to your teen’s school. Are there a reduced number of doors that can be accessed from the outside, while still allowing teens to exit from the inside in an emergency? Do faculty and staff greet visitors, challenge strangers and know who is in their building? Are there sign-in procedures and visitor identification badges?
Find out if your teen’s school has policies and procedures on security and emergency preparedness. Does your teen’s school board and school administration have written policies and procedures related to security, crisis preparedness planning, and overall school safety planning? If so, are they communicated clearly and regularly to students, school employees and parents? How? When?
Determine if your teen’s school has a school safety team, safety plan and ongoing process, as well as a school crisis team and school emergency/crisis preparedness guidelines. Does your teen’s school have a school safety committee to develop an overall plan for prevention, intervention, and security issues? Are these plans balanced and not just prevention only or security only? Is there a school crisis team to deal with emergency planning? Who are members of the safety committee and crisis team? How often do they meet? Is there a written school crisis plan? Are there written emergency or crisis guidelines? Are these plans and guidelines reviewed regularly (for example, once a year)?
Inquire with your teen’s school and public safety officials as to whether school officials use internal security specialists and outside public safety resources to develop safety plans and crisis guidelines. Do your teen’s school officials actively involve internal school security specialists, School Resource Officers, and other school safety specialists in developing safety plans and crisis guidelines? Do your teen’s school officials have meaningful, working relationships with police, fire and other public safety agencies serving their schools? Are these public safety agencies involved on school safety committees and teams and/or do they have direct input on school plans?
Is your teen’s school emergency/crisis guidelines tested and exercised? Does your teen’s school officials test and exercise written crisis guidelines? Do they conduct periodic drills to practice them?
Determine whether your teen’s school faculty, including support personnel, received training on school security and crisis preparedness issues. Have school faculty received training on security and emergency strategies by local, state or national specialists? Have faculty also received training on their school district’s specific crisis guidelines? Are support personnel such as secretaries and custodians included in such training? How often is such training provided? Is the training provided by qualified and experienced instructors with specific safety training?
Honestly evaluate whether you, as a parent, are doing your part in making your teen’s
school safe. Do you follow parking, visitor, and other safety procedures at your school? Do you support teachers and administrators with safety initiatives? Do you talk with your child about personal safety considerations, drug and violence prevention issues, and related topics?
What are some practical things parents can do at home to reduce child safety risks?
Parents can take many steps to address the many threats to teen safety in schools.
Examples of such steps include:
- Talk with your teen regularly about gangs, drugs, weapons, school and community safety, and related concerns.
- When you talk with your teen, be honest. Violence and related trauma issues are serious, but more damage can be done by minimizing or exaggerating these points than by simply providing teens with facts and telling the truth.
- Do not assume that your teen knows even the “basic” facts about safety and other risks. Teens absorb a lot of information and, unfortunately, much of it is inaccurate or from questionable sources. Let your teen get the correct information from you as the parent.
- Be aware of and do not permit your teen to participate in gang identifiers.
- Work cooperatively with police and your teen’s school officials.
- Seek professional assistance when needed. Do not wait until a problem gets out of control and then look for professional help
- Parents must provide order, structure and consistent discipline. Although you love your teen, realize that he or she is still going to test the limits. Ask probing questions: Where are you going? Who will be with you? And do some follow-up to verify the answers you get!
- Inspect your teen’s room from time to time. Parents have found gang graffiti on their teen’s bedroom walls, drug paraphernalia on dresser tops, sexually explicit notes, weapons in book bags, and much, much more once they get up the nerve to start snooping! It is your house and your teen, so check them regularly! It is not only your right, but your responsibility!!!