If you’re reading this about the same time I wrote it, then summer is in short supply. In just a few weeks, we’ll be sending our kids and teens back to the nearest institution of learning.
That’s good in a lot of ways. Education is important. Socialization is important. Having kids in school helps us further our careers or schools by giving us more time.
But for all the good in school, it puts our children for hours every day in a place where we can’t be their first line of safety defense.
Instead, we rely on the adults responsible for their safety at school. And we don’t know how good they are at that job.
Here are seven questions to ask school staff, or yourself, as the school year ramps up, so you can assess your kids’ safety and make whatever adjustments you think you need.
7 Back to School Safety Questions
1. What Is the Parent Pickup Policy?
Whether it’s after school every day, or during emergencies during school hours, how does staff identify which adults may or may not pick up your child? How strongly does staff follow those rules in reality?
2. How Do The Teachers Act at The Bus Ramp?
Bus ramp duty is important and boring, with two to four teachers standing around keeping kids safe while the buses are in motion. Watch the teachers. Are they focused on the kids, or focused on socializing with each other? Are they mostly on their phones? This will tell you a lot about the safety culture of the school.
3. When Does School Start?
When a lot of families talk about bedtime, they base it either on dinner time at home or on the child’s age:
- “We eat at six. It takes about two hours to wind down after. Bedtime is 8PM.”
- “The appropriate bedtime for a ten year old is 8PM, with half an hour to read before lights out.”
The better choice is to base it on when school starts. “School starts at 7 AM. It takes an hour to get ready, eat breakfast, and walk there. That means waking up at 6AM. To get ten hours of sleep, bedtime is 8PM.”
Sleep deprivation carries a whole host of safety and development issues with it, so answering that question is directly related to your child’s safety.
4. What Does the Student Handbook Say About Cell Phones?
Having a cell phone on and active helps with family safety, since it lets you communicate with your child and keeps the location tracking on. Many school student handbooks say phones must be off during school hours.
If that’s true of your child’s student handbook, it’s okay to tell them to ignore that rule and instead have their phones on silent/vibrate. If you do that, have a plan for how you’ll deal with school authorities if that becomes a problem.
5. How is the Staff Trained for Safety?
Ask the Principal this question directly. They should have a robust answer that almost sounds memorized. If they don’t, that’s a bad sign already.
If they have a good answer, listen to it carefully. Look up the brand names and certifications. Learn how it works, and what its reputation is in the security world. Your instructor will probably have some contacts and resources to help you do this.
6. Does the Lockdown Drill Match the Architecture?
It’s sad that every school in America needs a lockdown/active shooter drill. It’s good that, with that need, they all have them.
However, most districts adopt the same drill for every school in their purview. Which would be fine if they all had the same architecture.
Read the lockdown drill rules for each of your children’s schools, then think critically about how well those rules work with the architecture of the actual building. If there’s a problem, make a different plan.
7. Are Coaches & PE Teachers Medically Trained?
Concussions are a serious issue in youth sports these days, in part because of how little medical training the teachers and coaches receive. Most just need to stay current on basic first aid and AED, neither of which help with detecting concussions that aren’t extremely obvious.
Worse, many athletic people (us included) tend to be overconfident in their medical skills because of how often we’ve been injured.
Find out specifically what kind of concussion training the coaches and PE teachers have. If it’s “none” or “oh…I know how to spot one. I’ve had dozens”, work with school or district authorities to create a better situation.
Okay, So Now What?
Asking questions isn’t enough. Getting answers isn’t enough. You’re done with this once you’ve drawn intelligent conclusions and acted on them.
If you ask your sensei “How’s my left wheel kick?”, you don’t hear “Terrible. You’re going to blow out your knee if you keep doing that” and stop there. You figure out what you’re doing wrong, then you drill until you’re doing it right.
The same applies here. These questions will demand action. As a martial artist and parent, it’s your job to take that action.
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you enjoyed this piece by author Jason Brick, be sure to check out some of his crucial info on the top martial art skills for parents!