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School should be a safe place for children, where neither parents nor children should have to worry about violence or emotional harm. Unfortunately, that's not always the case in today's world. Violence exists in schools, and it can make both children and parents fearful.
Violence can range from bullying to fighting to the use of weapons on or near school property. Violence can occur during school hours or at after-hours activities such as dances or sporting events. But schools, parents, and children can take certain steps to work together and keep kids safe at school.
Protecting your children starts with communication. Talk with them early and often to open the lines of communication so that it's natural for them to talk to you if they are worried about their safety.
Parents should talk to their children about:
Kids’ experiences at school. Talk about whether they're happy and feel safe, if something is concerning them, if they're being bullied, and what the other students are like.
Appropriate ways to handle anger. Fighting, aggression, and violence aren't the answer to anger in any situation. Teach your kids to work on remaining calm and patient, talking out problems instead of fighting, and seeking an adult's help when necessary.
Communicating about problems at school. Make sure your kids know to talk to you or a trusted teacher or administrator if they know of someone who has behaved violently or made threats.
Bullying is a form of violence in which a child threatens, harasses, picks on, or embarrasses another child. Bullying can take place in-person at school or through the Internet—known as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can mean sending harassing emails, instant messages, or text messages or posting harassing or derogatory information on social media sites.
Here’s how you can help protect your kids:
Talk honestly about bullying. Help them understand what it means, what can happen as a result of bullying, and the signs of bullying in various forms.
Promote self-confidence in children. Get children involved in activities that they enjoy and that make them feel good about themselves so that they're confident at school and with friends.
Teach that bullying will not be tolerated. Make sure that your children understand that it's never OK to bully or be bullied, and that it's important to speak to a parent or teacher if they witness any bullying.
Administrators and teachers should be working to ensure that school is safe for your children and taking measures to reduce the risk for violence. If you're concerned about violence in your children's school, speak with school officials to see what provisions they have made to keep kids safe.
Schools should have safety precautions and protocols in place, including:
Close supervision of students by faculty members
Telephones in each classroom
Identification badges for students and visitors
Counseling for students who want it
Restrictions on students' trips off-campus during school hours
Restrictions on clothing to reduce the likelihood of weapons being hidden under coats or shirts
Detailed reports on violent incidents
A no-tolerance policy on drugs, alcohol, weapons, bullying, and violence
Look for signs of potential violence in your children's life, as well as signs that your children may be exposed to violence at school. Be an informed, aware parent to better protect your children in every way you can.