With back to school fast approaching, front of mind for me as a dad and a former middle school principal is our students’ safety. In my own recent graduate studies, I have studied the school safety perceptions of middle school age children. Early data shows that students perceive their safety differently than their parents. While parents are often more worried about incidents of school violence, students are most worried about their well-being on the way to and from school.
Walking, riding and commuting students report that they feel least safe during the day on their way to and from school. Moreover, students say that what makes them feel safest on the way to and from school are the adults they see. Students say that security guards, teachers, bus drivers and other adults increase their feelings of safety on their way to and from school.
Adults are the most influential factor in a child’s perceived safety, consider the following recommendations to help your child know the adults both at and on their way to school:
- For the first few days of school, accompany your child on every part of their path to school. If you drop your student off, take a few extra minutes to park the car and walk them to their locker or first period.
- Meet and introduce safe adults to your child. Shake hands with bus driver, say hello to the metro station manager, talk about the weather with the crossing guards and meet the building security guards. Show your child that these adults are safe adults and can be trusted.
- Meet and network with other parents in your child’s grade level. Arrival and dismissal times are a great chance to talk with parents! Talk to them about their arrival and dismissal plan. Introduce your child to other parents to further expand your network of safe adults.
- Create an emergency plan. If your child finds trouble on their way to or from school, where should they go? Who should they call first? What if they’ve lost their cell phone?
School safety is top of mind for every parent, but our children are no exception. Make time each night to talk about school, about the day’s journey to and from school and the adults that are there to help. Make plans with your child about what to do in case of an emergency.
John Barnhardt is the Director of School Design for KIPP DC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.