Parents and School Safety
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?
Dr. Ken Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services, created a list of 10 practical things parents can do to assess school security and emergency/crisis preparedness from a parent’s perspective specifically for parents. The list is shared below to help parents nationwide support their school officials with their safe schools efforts.
Security and emergency preparedness measures should be balanced with strong violence prevention and intervention programs. Along with a well-disciplined and positive school climate, these elements of a comprehensive safe schools approach can play critical roles in making schools safe.
Contact Dr. Ken Trump directly for information on parent training programs in your area. Ken has presented to the National PTA’s annual convention and to local parent and community groups around the nation.
Be sure to follow Dr. Ken’s School Security Blog for frequent posts on parents and school safety.
10 Practical Things Parents Can Do to
Assess School Security and Crisis Preparedness
Kenneth S. Trump, Ed.D.
National School Safety and Security Services
1. Ask your child about safety in his or her school. Students often know where gaps in security exist and what can be done to improve school safety. Where do they feel most safe? Least safe? Why? What can be done to improve safety?
2. Identify comfort levels and methods for reporting safety concerns. Do students have at least one adult they would feel comfortable in reporting safety concerns to at school? Are there other methods (hotlines, email tip lines, etc.) for students to report concerns? Are parents comfortable in addressing safety concerns with school administrators?
3. Examine access to your school. Are there a reduced number of doors that can be accessed from the outside (while still allowing children to exit from the inside in an emergency)? Do faculty and staff greet visitors, challenge strangers and know who is in their school? Are there sign-in procedures, visitor identification badges, etc.?
4. Find out if your school has policies and procedures on security and emergency preparedness. Does your board and administration have written policies and procedures related to security, crisis/emergency preparedness planning, and overall school safety planning? If so, are they communicated clearly and regularly to students, school employees and parents? How? When?
5. Determine if your school has a “living” school safety team, safety plan and ongoing process, as well as a school crisis team and school emergency/crisis preparedness guidelines. Does your 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? When did they last meet? Are there written emergency/crisis guidelines? Are these plans and guidelines reviewed regularly – at least once a year? (Note: Many schools have one overall team to address both overall safety planning and crisis preparedness. Two separate groups are not necessary as long as they are dealing with all of the various issues and components.)
6. Inquire with 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 school officials actively involve internal school security specialists, School Resource Officers, and other school safety specialists in developing safety plans and crisis guidelines? Do school officials have meaningful, working relationships with police, fire and other public safety agencies serving their schools? Are they involved on school safety committees and teams and/or do they have direct input on school plans? Has your school ever had an independent security and emergency planning assessment done by an outside school safety expert?
7. Ask if school emergency/crisis guidelines are tested and exercised. Do school officials test and exercise written crisis guidelines? What type of tests do they do? For example, if they have a lockdown procedure, do they conduct periodic drills to practice them? If they cannot have full-scale exercises of emergency plans (which are often difficult to do), do they at least do tabletop exercises to test written plans?
8. Determine whether school employees, including support personnel, have received training on school security and crisis preparedness issues. Have school employees received training on security and emergency strategies by local, state and/or national specialists? Have employees also received training on their school/district specific crisis guidelines? Are all employees, including 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 knowledge of K-12 specific safety issues?
9. Find out if school officials use outside resources and sources in their ongoing school safety assessments. Do school officials subscribe to current publications addressing security issues? Do they attend conferences and programs on school safety? Have they reviewed their security measures, crisis guidelines and safety plans with recommendations by school safety experts?
10. Honestly evaluate whether you, as a parent, are doing your part in making schools safe. Do you follow parking, visitor, and other safety procedures at your school? Do you support teachers and administrators with safety initiatives, including by asking the above questions in a supportive, non-blaming manner? Do you talk with your child about personal safety considerations, drug and violence prevention issues, and related topics early and regularly at home? Do you seek professional help for your child in a timely manner, if needed?
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 child safety in schools, at home ,and in the community. Examples of such steps include:
- Talk with children early and regularly about safety risks, school and community safety, and related concerns.
- Monitor your child’s social media. Talk with children about appropriate use, how technology can be misused, and related conversations. Have your child educate YOU about current social media platforms and trends.
- When you talk with children, BE HONEST! Violence and related trauma issues are serious, but more damage can be done by minimizing or exaggerating points than by simply providing children with age-appropriate facts and telling the truth.
- Do NOT assume that your child knows even the “basic” facts about safety and other risks. Kids absorb a lot of information and, unfortunately, much of it is inaccurate or from questionable sources. Let your child age-appropriate information – the correct information – from you as the parent. And give it to them in a non-threatening and non-embarrassing time, place, and manner. Perhaps then your child will be more willing to come to you with other questions and problems later on!
- Eliminate access to weapons by youth.
- Be aware of and do not permit gang identifiers.
- Provide order, structure, and consistent discipline in the home.
- Work cooperatively with police and school officials.
- Seek professional assistance when needed and in a timely manner. 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 child, realize that he or she is still a kid and will 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 child’s room from time to time. Parents have found gang graffiti on bedroom walls, drug paraphernalia on dresser tops, sexually explicit notes, weapons in book bags leaving the home, graffiti and revealing information on school notebooks, and much, much more once they get up the nerve to start snooping! Unfortunately, some parents falsely believe that they should not- or legally cannot – go into their child’s room. It is your house and your child – check them both and check them regularly! It is not only your right, but your responsibility!!
Feel free to reach out to Ken Trump with comments and to refer your school officials to our website for free information and resources, and information on our services.