Like parents all over the country, parents in Greater Jacksonville worry about their kids when it comes to safety issues and school.
With tourist season descending upon us about a month after school starts, parents have an added incentive to prep their kids about safety now that everyone is back in learning mode for the new school year.
Sit down with your kids and devise a plan for staying safer going to and from school as well as feeling more secure at school.
Sometimes you’ve thought about something for so long that you’ve forgotten why you what you do.
Prepping yourself and your kids to be safer takes re-visioning.
Consider: In addition to your kids’ records already on file with the school, develop an ID card with a current photo yourself or working with local police for your kid to carry – in a pocket, a pencil zip, in a backpack or school tote, and give a copy to the school office.
- Match your kids up with their schools, so that in the event that someone gets lost, many people can work together to look and help.
Consider: Sew name labels or write your kids’ names inside their clothes and shoes where they can’t be seen. Do the same with totes and bags and other personal items.
- Match your kids up with the things they carry with them so that kid and thing can be reunited more easily.
Consider: If your kids don’t already have them, get them inexpensive, simple camera phones. Program in emergency contact numbers – including a direct number to the police in case 911 doesn’t work – and put name label inside the phone, too, where it’s out of sight.
Make this easy on your wallet, too, by using a no contract, pre-paid service like AT&T’s GoPhone.
- Make sure the phone operates by satellite transmission (GPS/GSM) so you don’t have to worry about being out of range of a cell tower.
- Most of the pre-paid services (Verizon®, TracFone®, Net-10®) offer brand-new, good-quality phones for under $20.
- Because you don’t have to sign a contract, lost or broken phones are easy and cheap to replace.
Consider: Keep a written or printed copy of emergency and school contact information in your kids’ pencil zips, backpacks, wallets, etc.
Do: Explain bullying and hazing over and over again, especially to younger children. Make your kids promise to tell when they’re bullied and harassed.
- Lobby the principal and the PTA/PTO at your kids’ schools to sponsor law-enforcement school-safety workshops for families.
- Ask principals and their staff safe ways to ask for help at school and to report strangers or strange behavior. When people your kids know start acting funny, they become strangers, too.
- Ask where the supervised shelter-in-place areas are if you kids have to leave the classroom to ask for help.
Do: Reinforce in positive ways what a “stranger” is and how to say no and thank you. And most importantly how to get away and where to run if strangers won’t take no for an answer.
Do: Take your kids to school or walk them to the bus stop as often as you can, especially younger kids.
- Bus riders and walkers need to meet safe people in the neighborhood where they can go to ask for help.
- Get to know the other kids on the walk to school or at the bus stop. Introduce yourself so that you can your kids match up.
- Make older bus riders and walkers promise to stay in groups.
- Introduce yourself to the bus driver, too.
- Carpoolers need to know what to do if transportation is running late. Make sure their phones know the school’s office number so they can call and tell the staff they’re on their way.
- Make it your mission to introduce yourself to crossing guards, school security and local police on duty at the school, office staff, lunchroom ladies, teachers’ aides, custodians – everyone your kids may meet on a typical school day.
- Being friendly when you meet new people helps your kids make friends faster and become more visible.
Do: Take all meds – including vitamins, aspirin, cough syrup, and so – to school nurse yourself.
- Most school districts require that school nurses dispense all meds anyway. Tell your kids it’s okay to ask the nurse questions and to go themselves if they don't feel right.
Stay involved & follow through
As with all good habits, persistence and patience take the sting out the time and tedium of practicing a new routine.
Start with something easy: Make a checklist of items your kids carry back and forth to school and take inventory every morning and every evening – homework, school books, pencils, pens, phone, emergency, etc.
- You know immediately if something’s lost or broken
- Make sure phone’s battery is charged.
Do: Know the school’s rules about personal technology.
- Know when it’s okay for kids to have their phones on.
- Don’t call to chat because you’re bored or restless and don’t encourage the same behavior in your kids.
- Do not under any circumstances track your kids’ phones online, especially from a public computer. If you can, then anyone can.
- Do not unlock phones. Period.
Do: Make yourself known around school in positive ways when possible
- Make time to go to your kids’ schools when they don’t know you’re there and look around quietly for yourself with the principal and other staff so you know what’s normal. Don’t be invisible until it’s time for the science fair or the fall carnival
- Volunteer time when you can by helping the little ones in the lunch room or working as a playground/recess assistant.
- Make parent-teacher conferences. If you can’t help a miss, introduce your stand-in to the teacher in advance even it’s over the phone or by email. Make sure they know who to expect.
Most of all let your damn kids be just kids.
They’ll have just as much fun as we did when we were their age.
Plus they’ll be safer.
©2013 All rights reserved.
OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact: email@example.com