Alarming headlines reporting everything from the discovery of weapons in students' lockers to shootings on campus are bound to make parents question their child's safety in school. While such concerns are valid, parents should take note of research showing kids are two times more likely to be victims of serious violent crime away from school than at school. And, adults can take an active part in helping prevent violence.
One of the most critical things you can do, according to the National Crime Prevention Council, is remove firearms from your home, or at least make sure that they are locked, well secured and stored separately from ammunition. Some other steps recommended by the council are:
Listen to and talk to your children regularly;
Help your child learn how to find solutions to problems;
Discourage name calling and teasing;
Set clear limits on behaviors in advance; and
Insist on knowing your children's friends, whereabouts and activities.
"Prevention is the most effective strategy for reducing violence," said Ira Pollack, a school safety specialist with the North-west Regional Educational Laboratory. He said parents should work with their kids to build awareness of their surroundings. Pollack also stressed the importance of talking to kids.
"Watch the news, discuss their feelings about what's going on and how they would react in certain situations," he suggested. And, let your child know that if he hears or sees something that concerns him, it's OK to tell an adult. "They shouldn't feel like they're 'ratting' on anyone," Pollack said.
Becoming actively involved in your children's schools is another important way to help ensure their safety. A series of guides to creating safer schools focuses on the need for collaboration among schools, families and the public sector.
"School safety requires a broad-based effort by the entire community, including educators, students, parents, law enforcement agencies, business and faith-based organizations," the guide said.
Each school should have policies in place for dealing with violent or aggressive students and for managing dangerous situations. You might want to review a copy of those policies, both for your own peace of mind and as a way to talk to your child about appropriate behaviors.
This column is provided as a public service by the Northwest Regional Education Laboratory, a nonprofit institution working with schools and communities in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
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