In the age of the bullet-proof backpacks, you will forgive us for beginning school safety with a discussion of situational awareness. Many of us remember fire drills, tornado drills, even bomb drills, but kids in school today have started practicing the “active shooter” drill. Teachers are being trained that once you lock the door, that’s it. Even if there is a kid in the hall, you don’t open your door until the all clear is sounded.
That means kids in school need to think on their feet, and be tuned into their situation in case it takes a turn for the worst. A new school year is full of anxiety. The last thing you may want to bring up with your child is the worst situation they might face. But, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” Being prepared can mean making good decisions in a swirl of bad circumstances.
Know your surroundings. For kids who are starting a new school, make sure they get a map. Go before or after school and become familiar with the campus. Know where your classes are and how the buildings are laid out.
Understand your escape routes. Have a mental plan for each of your classes and where to go if there is an emergency. Pay attention to hiding spots and how the rooms are connected in case you have to make a break for it.
Be familiar with school policy. Teach your child what to do in a situation when the school is in lock down. If policy is “all doors locked,” make sure your child has a plan in case they find themselves locked out and left alone in the hall.
If you see something, say something. Your gut will tell you if someone is generally joking or is deadly serious. But, you can’t take chances. Kids may try to impress each other with big crazy talk. In the end, none of this is funny and all claims of violence should be reported.
None of us want to start the school year talking and thinking about school violence. But with one of the most tragic school-involved years behind us, every student should know the basics of paying attention to their environment.