With the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut and the tornado of Moore, Oklahoma, we have to ask ourselves, “Can parents ever feel like their children are safe at school?”
Before these events, we knew that school was unsafe for the bullied child, for the children with severe allergies, and for those who experience a “freak accident.” But, we still, as a whole, trusted that a school building would protect our children from physical dangers like bullets and storms. Even if some freak accident happened, it was always considered isolated, affecting only a few people or a small area, or a different part of the world.
Now we are faced with the inevitable questions. Are our children truly safe? Do we trust the bricks to protect them? Are policies in place, procedures for any event? How do we protect our children better? Can we?
For Teachers and Administrators
This summer is a perfect time to answer these questions. When the school year resumes this fall, you can have some things in place that will help reassure the parents that you are doing all you can. Remember, saying “Your children are safe” won’t work any more. We can’t believe that. So, you’ll have to prove that you’re doing everything you can to make them safe.
- Review safety procedures currently in place. Revise, review, and schedule practice with teachers before the students return.
- Review the building’s safety systems. If there are better ways to outfit your building, now is the time to address them.
- Anticipate the worst. It’s time to have procedures for those “freak accidents.” We know they can happen.
- Consider more staff. Do you need to have paid or volunteer crossing guards, greeters at each entry, or security?
- Check communication systems. Does every room have access to communication? Does every teacher carry a cell phone or radio?
- Train staff for awareness. From weather spotting to behavior awareness, all staff needs to be alert to dangers around them.
- Check contact information. Be sure you have multiple points of contact for each family.
- Meet with law enforcement and the fire department. Check in over the summer and see if they’ll do a walk through at your school. Where can they give you suggestions? Do they have the floor plans for your facilities?
- Train parents. Offer workshops for parents so they know how to reassure students and stay calm in all different situations.
We can’t guarantee that our children are safe every minute of the day. Nor should we. Let’s not react to tragedy by never allowing our children to live. They can’t walk around in bubble wrap and be so insulated from the world that they don’t get a scratch or take a risk. It’s not healthy to live like that. We may create phobias that will follow our children into adulthood. We don’t know what tomorrow brings, but we do know that God will be there with us, helping us through the best and worst of it.
Question: What are other suggestions for schools to be as safe as they can be?