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Parents key players in maintaining safe, secure school environments

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
December 6, 2013

The Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University, Texas PTA and Texas Education Agency have joined to remind all Texans that school safety is more than equipment and supplies.

It is more than policies, plans and drills. Safe and secure schools represent a partnership among all stakeholders – educators, students, volunteers, parents and the community. Of these, perhaps the most influential partner is the parent or guardian. They are advocates of both their children and the community.

The partnership between parents and schools is an important one built upon trust and open communications. It includes discussions and training about school safety and security standards and guidelines and about the challenges of keeping schools safe and secure.

According to a recent Texas PTA survey, parents have specific safety concerns about their child’s school. Half of all respondents were not certain their students were safe from an unauthorized campus entrance. More than 60 percent of parents indicated they would be willing to serve on a safe schools committee at the district level, which confirms parents want to be involved when it comes to student safety.

“The key to school safety is awareness and action. Parents are their own child’s best advocate. Sandy Hook reminded us that we should never become complacent about school safety. Learn about what safety measures your campus has in place, ask questions and advocate for change if necessary,” said Texas PTA Executive Director Kyle Ward.

Parent support of school safety begins at home, said. Victoria Calder, director of the Texas School Safety Center.

“By practicing what to do in an emergency, student and staff confidence increases exponentially. This confidence reduces worry and allows students to focus on learning,” she said. “To support preparedness, parents should talk to their children about the kinds of drills a school conducts and the reason for those drills. They should stress to children the importance of staying calm, helping others and following instructions. Parents should reinforce the lessons from drills by preparing their own families for emergencies of all kinds and by practicing similar drills at home."

“I applaud the efforts of the Texas School Safety Center and the Texas PTA in working with school districts to assure our students are in a safe learning environment,” said Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. “Emergency preparedness is key to keeping safe the students, teachers, administrators and staff on every campus in every school district across our state.”

Parents can help ensure that schools are safe by learning about the emergency management and safety programs at their child’s school. While complete details about emergency procedures and campus vulnerabilities are confidential, there is much to learn a school’s preparedness. For example, campus safety drills are essential and something in which parents should take an interest. Today, the campus drill requirements extend well beyond the traditional school fire drill. They include:

  • Evacuation drills, to ensure that students can be moved to safety for any of a number of scenarios
  • Reverse Evacuation drills, designed to quickly move students from outside back into the campus or to other areas of safety
  • Weather drills, to ensure that students stay safe from acts of nature such as severe weather and flooding
  • Shelter-in-Place drills to protect students from contaminants and other hazardous materials
  • Lockdown drills, to ensure that students can safely take cover when an internal threat exists and are ready to take further action should it be needed

School safety and security relies on open communication and partnerships between parents and schools. To support school safety and security audits, for example, parents can report concerns related to campus security, facility maintenance, neighborhood safety and most importantly share with the campus any concerns their children raise.

One of the biggest issues facing students, parents and school officials today is the prevalence and lasting effects of bullying. Incidents of bullying can affect the school environment, the community and most importantly the psychological and emotional wellbeing of the child. Bullying is not only a school issue; it is a social issue. Parents should engage their children in conversations about bullying and help foster a comprehensive approach to addressing bullying. They also should share with school officials concerns about bullying or potential bullying at school. It also is important to monitor social media and be watchful for cyberbullying.

Also, parents must lead by example. When visiting a school, no matter how familiar they are with the campus and its staff, parents must follow all visitor guidelines. It is important to obey traffic, parking and pedestrian safety. They should be knowledgeable about school reunification and release procedures and follow the process carefully. They can learn how the school will provide emergency information to them; asking questions in advance to understand the timelines and restrictions that emergency communication may involve. And, since parents who regularly visit or volunteer on campus are valuable resources, they must be ready to assist and/or support campus staff if an emergency occurs while they are on campus.

To learn more about Texas School Safety Center initiatives, visit the website at http://txssc.txstate.edu.