As the tragedy in Newtown, CT still rings in our minds, the dialogue regarding security in our schools is now open. Thankfully, such incidents are rare. Nevertheless, school security in Kentucky and elsewhere will continue to be an issue for as long as your voice continues to remain silent. If you are concerned about your child's safety, here are five ways you can make a difference.
1. Suggest panic buttons
Panic buttons are basically call switches that send an immediate distress signal to law enforcement. Banks have them installed underneath teller windows in the event of robbery. As the parent of a child attending school, you have the power to effect change. If the school has not installed panic buttons at least in the main office, suggest it at the next board meeting. If they do have them, ask if every teacher knows of their existence and location.
The monthly school board meeting is your time to get involved. The board meets once a month to inform the community of issues within your district. Late winter is when they typically begin bringing up budget concerns.
The budget vote is your chance to be heard. Get involved.
Check out your school's website for details on board meeting schedules.
2. Talk about fire safety
Every child should know what to do in case of fire. From stop, drop, and roll to how to pull the fire alarm if needed. Children should not only know how to pull an alarm, but when to do so.
Your child needs to understand the implications of false alarms. For very young children, the classic story of the boy who cried wolf is an excellent teaching tool.
Your local fire department is an excellent resource for teaching about fire safety. Many fire stations will gladly send a representative to schools to give live demonstrations that are both fun and educational. Ask your school if they have any such visits planned.
3. Ask about security cameras
Strategically positioned cameras in hallways help to maintain discipline as well as safety. Some schools refuse this option due to budget concerns, but that does not mean they cannot be debated. Remember: You do not have to remain silent while important issues are voted down.
4. Know what to look for
Vans or cars parked just off school property for a prolonged time are a typical concern. Children need to know to avoid such suspicious-looking vehicles. Pick-up and drop-off practices should be meticulously defined. If they are not, they must be.
Teachers as well as children should understand driver verification rules when it comes to pick-ups. Furthermore, make sure you obey those rules yourself. Leading by example can be the first step toward effecting change.
Children going to the bathroom or the nurse's office should never do so alone. Ask the school if they have a buddy system rule in place. Abductions are more likely to occur when children are alone.
5. Talk, talk, talk
There is a common rule to every one of these suggestions: communication. You are guaranteed to get nowhere if you do not speak up. Talk to your children first. Ask them if they understand school safety. Ask them if they know about cameras in the parking lots or hallways. Ask them about fire alarms and safety guidelines. The dialogue about school protection begins with those whom you cherish most.