Like all sensitive topics, I’ll begin this article with a trigger warning. This article is about school safety, but yes, it contains brief references to the recent tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. I know it is a sensitive subject for all parents, especially those of us with children in school.
It’s only been a little over a week since the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas. Though we’re still piecing together the details of what happened, I know we can all agree that school safety is at the forefront of our minds. As we enjoy our summer fun, many parents are thinking about the upcoming 2022-2023 school year. Where will my kids go? Will they be safe? How can I assure they’ll be safe?
While nothing will be 100% perfect 100% of the time, it is important to look at the safety measures our county schools are implementing. I teach in Campbell County, so my experience with Knox County schools is very limited. However, here are some things to look for, regardless
How easy is it for a non-staff member to access your kids?
Is the office locked? Do visitors need to be “buzzed in”? Are there safe barriers to keep classrooms at arm’s length in case of emergency? Think about the playground too. Is it locked, gated, and appropriately supervised? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, ASK! Too often, parents are afraid to be too confrontational or intrusive. This is one of those times when you should speak up when you have a question or concern.
Do teachers/staff check ID at pickup?
What does school pick-up look like? At the school where I teach, not only are there several locked doors and codes prior to even entering the main hallways, but we also check IDs at pickup. Any time we don’t recognize someone or we aren’t sure about the pickup list, we check ID. I have been yelled at a few times by parents and grandparents because they were insulted by this. I promise, it’s for safety.
What’s the plan for drills?
Ask your child’s teacher/principal about drills. Fire drills, storm drills, intruder drills, medical lockdown drills, etc. What is your school’s emergency plan?
Are there School Resource Officers (SROs) in the building?
How many? Where? Hopefully, the answers are at least one, full-time. Our school (in Campbell County) always has a resource officer, full-time, everywhere. He helps with traffic, interacts with children, constantly paces the halls, and pulls/checks outside doors constantly to ensure they’re secure. Our SROs are wonderful.
Are there nurses in the building?
How many? Where? Hopefully, the answers are at least one, full-time. I know this answer will vary based on school size and makeup. Unfortunately, medical emergencies DO happen. As a parent, I have the comfort of knowing a nurse is available all day in case of an emergency.
What does school-wide communication look like?
Do the teachers have access to walkies, cell phones, or other devices in case of emergency? Many schools communicate via walkie-talkies, and many still use texting or office intercoms. If you’re looking into the plan for school drills, this information will probably be included.
Speaking of communication, this tragedy really hit hard for me as a teacher. Many of you have read the details about the 911 calls coming from inside the classroom in Uvalde, Texas. And then I had to think: If a student needed to dial 911 on my cell phone, could they? Probably not. I have an elaborate passcode. It made me think about my own safety measures as a teacher, and gave me some things to change going into the next school year.