A Message to Public Schools Regarding School Safety

My Daughter was kidnapped at around 1yr old by someone we both knew and trusted. Even loved at the time no matter how impossible it seems. Afterwards, I began to see people differently. No longer did I trust. Not even family. Everyone had the potential to become a kidnapper. Everyone had the potential to break my heart. In light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, schools have been making changes to safety nationwide and potentially even worldwide. I am writing to propose some important changes that despite their paranoid appearance, could one day save the life of the children and staff in public schools. Many of these safety ideas are related to my experiences as a child in public school and from experiences with my children's existence in their school. I am aware that some of these are already in practice, while others aren't. Below are many ideas that should be considered and could very well save lives and would help make our schools a safer place.

Regarding illness and the Flu

This year was a particularly severe year for the flu. Granted, a determining factor was the unseasonably warm weather and its occasional flirt with winter. Despite this natural source of ignition, I have witnessed a few concerning situations. I have seen children go home without wearing their full winter arsenal on cold days. My son was one such case. He was put on the bus with gloves, hat, thick jacket etc. He got off the bus with all items inside his backpack except his jacket which was merely worn, not zipped. When we are experiencing an influx of arctic air, this is unacceptable. Especially when a child is still too young to realize the importance of proper seasonal attire. This is also an issue when there are bus monitors (young children) to ensure children are properly dressed. Another issue is watching children eat during class parties. They are conducting studies and then suddenly colorful food is spread before them on plates and they are allowed to begin their sugary feast without first washing their hands. I've witnessed occasions where hand sanitizer is encouraged, but that should be as a last resort not first. Also, it is unwise to continue to allow parents and guests to prepare homemade treats for these parties. Consider the level of cleanliness in other households. Consider also the potential for someone to attempt to harm the children and staff. Honestly, if the government now regulates the dietary needs of our children and the health department wouldn't allow such food to be served to just anyone, then why should it be allowed in schools? It is not comforting to a parent to know their child is eating food prepared by a stranger. Granted, this is the same situaion in a restaurant, but in the majority of cases, the health department's standards well exceed the cleanliness of people's homes where no one is watching if you lick the spoon or get hair in the cupcake. Lastly, the heating system needs to be better monitored. When a child is brought indoors to a school where the heat is too high, there is little moisture in the air. This results in dried nasal passages which encourages nosebleeds and infections from colds and the dreaded flu. Considering public school's drive for perfect attendance and keeping funding, you'd assume that any and all precautions would be met. It might seem silly to be slightly germaphoic, but since most children have yet to obtain the level of cleanliness taught to adults, it is a wise paranoia.

Regarding Check-in and Check Out

This is an area of major concern in all schools. The majority allow a parent to call and make changes to a child's destination. Even request that they do or don't ride the bus. How does the office staff know this person is really the parent or guardian? Would not a 'safety word' be a better idea? Something to verify the identity of the caller? Another issue is times I have attended after school functions and there has been no office staff present to monitor the entry and exit of school visitors. It is very possible for someone with ill intentions to make their way into the school and await or carry out deadly plans. All doors should remain locked at all times. This includes classrooms. There should be no entry or exit except the front which is separated by an office or similar, with non-obvious bullet-proof glass, so that only with approval can a visitor enter the premises. Currently, many schools use a sign-in sheet and visitor stickers. This system has its merits and is mainly in need of ensuring that identities are checked via ID for each sign-in and sign-out. Someone could easily claim to be someone else. Or a situation could occur and there would be no immediate knowledge of the suspect which would create a problem. Notes being sent to school to change a child's allowed transportation should also require some sort of verification. The school could easily be tricked and allow a child to go home with someone that's less than ideal or even someone that would harm the child or worse. Schools have the best interest of children at heart, but sometimes accepting the word of someone over the phone is far from best interest. Having cameras are a great step, but they do nothing to stop a kidnapping or terroristic threatening that is already being carried out. Speaking of cameras, what about their ability to be used live? To watch and monitor in a hostage situation? It would be of great value to know exactly what room the suspect is in. This is why keeping all doors locked is a great form of protection. In such a case, only the rooms accessible would be exposed to the suspect, therefore protecting the innocent lives behind the closed doors. Children are still to innocent to be aware of the reason for closed doors so there would be no reason to no keep the doors locked. Windows are also a concern as I've seen windows open in school on the ground floor. This is an obvious concern.

Regarding Field Trips

Utmost consideration is usually taken during such events. Yet the potential is there for things no one wishes to consider. It is a public place, so the dangers are more likely. Obviously kidnapping is an issue with large groups. In the case of small children, they should be tied together when moving with crowds of any size. Older children should be provided with a necklace whistle (with a break-away string to prevent choking) for cases of danger. This would enable their small voice to be heard so help could target faster. There would of course be serious consequence for anyone caught using them for annoyance or play. Washing hands should be a priority instead of relying on hand sanitizer. It should be used as backup only. First names should be the only name used and it's best to not broadcast which school is there. Children should be taught to scream, run to a teacher or use the whistle when anyone not part of school staff attempts to touch them.

Regarding Bomb Threats

This has been an increasing occurrence since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. It is not cool and it should be dealt with more severely. Despite a minor's protection from public record, this is a situation that inconveniences and terrifies children, staff, family and friends. There should be required community service and they should be forced to appear at the school at an assembly in front of the children and parents and explain what they did, why and apologize after spending 24hrs (or more) alone in jail. The embarrassment would assist with deterring other teens and children from thinking of bomb threats as a cool way to get out of school and the jail would show them the more boring forced attendance they would be enjoying with additional attempts at false threats. They should also be required to be in detention or miss all non-classroom activities such as trips, games and outdoor time. This includes dances and after school activities. Without the proper deterrent, the issue will still be an issue.

I shall add more to this over time. For now, the paranoid ramblings of a distrustful Mother should be of some use. Feel free to quote me (always provide credit) for presentations to your school board.
Amber FlowersComment