Beginning with Columbine followed by Sandy Hook and multiple other violent incidents in the nation’s schools, parents, school administrators, and staff have been plagued by worries that schools, despite best efforts, are not safe enough.
Statistics still indicate that children are safest at home and in their schools. Parents are now encouraged to become involved in school safety strategies and efforts, but many do not have the time or knowledge about how to become involved. One important thing that all parents can do is to find out what a child’s school is doing to ensure safety and speak to their children about their safety.
Still, parent involvement on school boards, in PTAs, or as volunteers can contribute to promoting a safe study environment.
What Parents Should Know About the School Their Children Attend
Parents should make it their business to be fully informed about security protocols, strategies, and equipment in use for children’s safety. This should include questions about doors, locks, video monitoring, access management, and preventing weapons from entering school premises. Inquire about emergency drills and if security personnel are present on campus.
If law enforcement is assigned to your child’s school, take time to meet them and find out when they are present and what their assignment to the school involves. If the school does not have a law enforcement presence or security personnel, lobby school administrators and elected officials to have a school resource officer assigned.
Visit the school and request information about the school’s security and safety strategies. Ask about lockdowns and emergency procedures. Know how to report any suspicious behavior that you or your child may note. Also, ask about parental notification in the event of an emergency and where parents can reunite and pick up children if need be.
Know the school’s layout and be prepared to answer any questions your children may have especially if they express fear or anxiety.
What Parents Should Do at Home
If you own weapons, they should not be accessible. Keep them secured in a firearm safe. If a weapon goes missing, report it immediately to authorities. It may not be your child that has taken it but a friend or schoolmate.
Know your child. Talk to your child about safety concerns. Children will take cues from parents and family members. Recognize typical and above all atypical behavior. Behavioral changes can be warning signs and parents should be able to identify these signs. Know what to do, as well as what resources and support are available if signs are apparent.
- Talk to your child about his or her school’s safety procedures. Even very young children must have some grasp of the concept of safety. However, you should also reassure your child that schools are generally safe places.
- Encourage your child to tell you if he or she notices inappropriate behavior or overhears something such as bullying, threats, or aggressive behavior. Children should be involved in safety responsibilities. Inquire if there are places at school where your child feels less safe and if so, follow up with school authorities if so.
- Encourage children to resolve problems and conflicts without resorting to violence.
While communication with children is fundamental, parents should not raise fears when discussing security. Listen and be informed if your child raises safety issues.
What Schools Can Do with Parents to Promote Safety
When confronting safety concerns, school administrators should engage parents from day one. Parents are a primary source of information for the children themselves. Schools should be hosting regular events with staff and teachers to maintain dialogue throughout the school year. Events should include meetings with the school’s resource officer, local law enforcement, and counselors who can help parents identify potential warning signs of behavioral issues.
Schools should also create opportunities for parents to volunteer during school activities. Active parental participation will contribute to a sense of safety. This might include field trips, sports activities, or simply monitoring school premises.
School Security Tools
School premises and facilities must be as safe as possible and fortunately, technological advancements can facilitate school security thanks to an ample selection of instruments.
Specific entrances and exits should be used for staff and student entry to school facilities. The same thing is true for visitors. Other doors or potential entry points should be locked. Smart locks can be used, including classroom locks, that can facilitate immediate lockdowns should the need arise, and video monitoring can be integrated. Weapon identification tools can also be installed at entrance points if deemed necessary.
Video security monitoring
Video monitoring with cameras or CCTV can reduce incidents, criminal behavior, and unauthorized visits to school premises. This type of monitoring can be used both indoors and outdoors.
An audio system that alerts students and staff to dangers, lockdowns, or the immediate need for evacuation is essential. This may also include smartphone alerts to parents as well as automatic alerts to law enforcement and emergency service providers.
Strategically placed panic buttons or mobile panic devices that teachers and staff can wear on their person can alert administrators and authorities to a need for intervention in real-time.
Schools should make available an app, email, or some instrument for anonymous reporting of threats, bullying, and verbal, or physical abuse.
Secure property perimeters
Outdoor school property including parking lots, gates, entry points, and drop-off areas need to be secured ideally with video monitoring, smart lighting, and security personnel.
Creating a safe school environment requires preparing staff and students for eventual crises. It also demands parental involvement and close collaboration with local law enforcement and emergency service providers. While most schools remain safe havens from the risks of criminal behavior, there is always room for improvement and a child’s safety and well-being may depend on it.