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Let’s talk back-to-school safety.

In just a few short days, children will be returning to school. Parents will be sad, rejoicing, or a little of both. As a former school teacher and resource officer in the inner city, I have seen all kinds of things that – as a protector – give me a sense of alarm. And because of various family and economic situations, some of the things that I see are necessary. I know that there are many parents and community members who are alarmed about the possibility of their children and family members being hurt, injured, or worse in our community. But let me share a quick statistic with you.

Pop quiz

What are the chances of a student being shot at school?

A. 1 in 614,000,000
B. 1 in 29,400,000
C. 1 in 15,300

Answer: A

Keep reading to find out what these other statistics are for!

The odds of a student being shot at a school are 1 in 614,000,000, as reported in the Washington Post. In other words, kids have a better chance of perishing in an airplane disaster, 1 in 29,400,000 according to the National Transportation Safety Board. In fact, being struck by lightning has a 1 in 15,300 chance according to the CDC. The bottom line? Schools are a relatively safe space for kids to be.

Safety protocols in school

Schools have safety protocols in place to help mitigate emergencies. There are procedures in place for lockdowns, medical emergencies, fire and weather emergencies, and they train the students in safety responses like A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) drills.

The schools have procedures for background checks with visitors and a very strong surveillance system in the buildings and parking lots. Teachers and students practice what could happen and the steps necessary to stay safe and hopefully the kids learn and take responsibility for their own safety.

Back-to-school safety suggestions

These are some back-to-school safety suggestions to help keep our kids safe as they return to school. Of course, these are suggestions and not totally comprehensive.

  1. Teach your younger kids their full name, address and phone number.
  2. Make sure they know their family members’ names. Sometimes all a small child knows is the nickname of a relative (my “Tati”). In an emergency, actual information is paramount.
  3. Speaking of names, don’t get clothing, backpacks or lunch boxes for your children that have their names on the outside. Many kids can become distracted when a stranger knows their name and calls out to them, and the children respond to them.
  4. Absolutely have your children’s names marked on the inside of their clothes and other items so that these things can be identified if needed. Place a card in your student’s pocket with all the necessary identification information if they don’t quite have it down yet.
  5. Have a code phrase and teach your children to never say what it is, but listen for it if they do come across someone calling out to them. If they don’t recognize the person and they don’t know the code phrase, instruct your child to run as fast as possible and try to get to a designated home that you have identified (a friend’s home along the way), a public space if possible, or, if they are still near the school, to notify a staff member with what happened immediately.
  6. Make sure you have a current picture of your child and accurate measurements. This includes weight, height, missing teeth, any birthmarks, and either fingerprints or DNA, saliva, or hair samples on file at your home.
  7. Make sure children know that they can come to the police and share their information with them. It is very difficult for a police officer to help children when they are being taught that the police are there to arrest them. We need to foster better communications with our kids and the community as this will help us become a safer society.
  8. Always stress to the kids that they need to have a plan on where they are going and that they shall not deviate from it. Make sure you can agree on where they are going and when they are coming back, including the route they will take. If your child does not come home within the expected timeframe, call the police immediately. Timing is very important: if the child gets lost or is kidnapped, this will empower the authorities to know where to start looking and can immediately start seeking out surveillance camera footage in the immediate area. Child trafficking and abductions have occurred in our areas and are occurring nationwide at an alarming rate.
  9. There is such a thing as a bullet-resistant backpack. There are also backpacks available that have sewn-in vests. Most kids use backpacks to transport their things to school. They are not easily recognizable as vests and are actually very light and inexpensive, usually running around just a little bit over $100.
  10. Sometimes families move during the school year. Make sure that your information is updated as soon as possible on your emergency card at school. In case of an emergency, the school may need to contact you right away.

A return to school can be very stressful. There are many choices that need to be made. When we train our kids on the options available to them and practice these safety protocols with them, we can have the assurance that the child has some ideas of what they need to do and are confident that they can do it. I hope all goes well with you and your loved ones and let’s start the year with safety in mind!

Henry Perez brings you Snapshots of Safety with the Racine County Eye. – Credit: Loren Lamoreaux

Henry Perez is a retired police administrator, middle school teacher, an A.L.I.C.E. instructor, and a Concealed Carry instructor.

Racine County Eye Snapshot series


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