Idaho Attorney General Lawrence G. Wasden
NAAG President Encourages Parents and Students to Have a Safe and Productive School Year
Every year, parents and children make preparations to return to school -- buying backpacks and new school supplies, planning after school and extracurricular activities, scheduling last minute doctor visits and updating immunizations.
No matter how much time parents spend preparing students for school, it?s not unusual for parents to still experience feelings of concern, anxiety or uncertainty. However, there are things that parents can do to ensure their peace of mind and equip their children with the right tools to protect themselves.
Taking these steps to protect your child can go a long way in ensuring a safe and productive school year.
Here are a few important safety tips:
- Encourage your children to talk to you about anything that makes them feel scared or uncomfortable. Teach your kids which trusted adults (such as grandparents, teachers, school resource officers, a neighbor you know and trust) they can also turn to when they need help.
- Update your list of emergency contacts and give a current copy to your child?s school and any after school programs. Make sure that everyone on your contact list knows key information, such as how to get to your child?s school, your pediatrician?s name and number, alarm codes for your house, etc.
- Ask the school to notify you if your child doesn?t arrive at school, and let the school know who is authorized to pick up your child. Make sure your children know who would pick them up in case of an emergency or if you aren?t able to.
- Make sure young children know their full name, parent?s name, address and phone number. You may also want to consider getting an ID card with your children?s fingerprints and footprints made. Contact your local law enforcement agency.
- Make sure your child?s school, day care and after school activities screen their employees. Visit and get to know the people who spend time with your children.
- Check to make sure your child?s school has a current safety plan. Ask if they have put together a critical incident response kit, which should contain everything a school needs to respond to a crisis, like blueprints, keys, rosters and emergency plans. Ask if teachers have undergone training to respond to various types of crisis scenarios. A number of local and state law enforcement agencies are willing to assist schools in assembling a kit and providing emergency response training to school personnel. Ask what you should do, as a parent, if a crisis occurs at school.
- Encourage your school to implement a School Crime Watch. Based on the Neighborhood Watch concept; youth watch out for each other to make the entire school area safer. Youth learn how to avoid becoming victims of crime and the best ways to report suspicious behavior or arguments before they escalate into fights or other disturbances.
- Talk to your kids about how to be safe if approached by strangers, even if it?s on the Internet. Set ground rules for Internet use, agree on web sites that are OK to visit and explain what is appropriate or not to do or view online. Attorneys General can often provide information on Internet safety. Visit http://www.naag.org/ to find your Attorney General. I-Safe (http://www.i-safe.org) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (http://www.ncmec.org/) also provide great tools for parents and children.
- Talk to school staff about Internet safety, too. Computers can be a wonderful learning tool, and many children now have access to the Internet in classrooms and school libraries. Ask how your child?s school protects students when they go online and what kind of instruction is provided to help children make safe online choices.
- Sign up to get email alerts when a registered sex offender moves near your home or your child?s school, daycare or after-school activities. Most states post sex offender information online and allow website visitors to sign up for email alerts. You can use the site to search for registered offenders and view maps and aerial photographs that pinpoint where they live. Encourage your child?s school to sign up for alerts, as well.
- Be careful to protect your child?s identifying information, like Social Security numbers, from strangers. Identity thieves will use a child?s information to open credit lines, take out mortgages or acquire credit cards without parents knowing until it?s too late. Give identifying information only when necessary. Before you do, ask how it will be used and how the organization will protect the information.