How to Advocate School Safety
Is your child's school safe? What can you do to make sure it gets that way or stays that way? Parents need to show schools safety is important by actively advocating for all kinds of policies and procedures.
Ask the Questions
It goes beyond emergency drills and telephone trees. In his book, Protecting the Gift, Gavin De Becker asks us to consider these questions:
- If my son is missing from class, how long will the school administrators wait before notifying me?
- If my daughter gets sick, will they call me immediately?
- What will they do if they can't reach me?
- If my boy is seriously injured, what hospital do they take him to?
- Have they ever had a student bring a gun to school?
- If my little girl wants to call me, will they let her?
- If one of my son's teachers is suspected of sexual abuse, will anybody inform me?
Some of these may be difficult questions to ponder. And even if some parents wonder, will they ask? Maybe you don't want to be the paranoid parent. Maybe you're in denial. Maybe everyone will look at you funny if you ask. I think the opposite is true. Other parents will appreciate your initiative. What have you got to lose? Plenty if an unsafe situation occurs at the school.
If you're serious about advocating for a safe school, you'll want to organize a meeting between parents, teachers, and administrators where questions like these can be addressed.
At the end of Protecting the Gift, De Becker includes an appendix of more questions like the ones above that can be used to begin an ongoing discussion about safety.
Get to know your child's teacher. You have the most access to the teacher and this is the person who can make or break you. The teacher has influence over other staff at school, as well as other parents. Be a team player and try to get the teacher on you team.
Talk to the principal, stating your concerns and willingness to take some responsibility in executing the changes you'd like to see. Nothing is more frustrating than someone full of ideas, but who has no intention of following through. These are the people that end up complaining all the time, but never do anything about it. The school administration sees these people coming a mile away and won't be thrilled to take on the task of implementing your desired changes.
Take the time to forge a relationship with teachers and administration. Even if you are new to the school, or you haven't been active in the past you can still take steps to establish rapport with the powers that be. Food is a universal peace offering that goes a long way in a teacher's lounge, and it doesn't have to be homemade. Schools are full of women and women love chocolate. Buy some good stuff and take it in.
Maybe more important: get other parents on your side. Begin the discussion.
Once you've brought together interested parents and others, you can set about the business of making school safer.
- Review the school's safety plans, including natural disaster preparedness.Do they make sense?Are there different plans for different times of day?For inclement weather?
- Make sure kids and school personnel are getting a chance to practice the drills or procedures.
- Clearly communicate to children the importance of boundaries and the difference between tattling and telling.
- Encourage families to create their own emergency preparedness plans at home.
- Rally others to join your cause.
- Work with law enforcement to educate the community about the very real dangers.