A couple of weeks ago Philadelphia School District’s Superintendent Dr. William Hite was threatening that unless he received additional money the schools would not open on September 9.
Mayor Nutter quickly donned his superhero costume that he keeps in his desk and sprang to the rescue. Well actually he decided to borrow the $50 million that the district said that they needed.
Even with the schools opening on time and perhaps a couple of the staff being brought back parents are still concerned about school safety and they have every right to be. Most schools have various incidents of bullying, assaults, theft, sexual assault, weapons being brought into the school or making threats even when the schools have enough staff. Without these staff members expect these incidents to increase.
Dr. Hite has declared that the “school district does not tolerate bullying or harassment of students in our schools.” Yes he really said that and with a straight face. However the district’s own record of serious incidents within each school tells a different story. It’s also easy for Hite to make this declaration because he doesn’t work in a public school. He sits safely in his comfortable chair in a private office with a view of the city at the schools district’s main administration building which has tight security.
It’s just not the everyday problems that question the safety in schools. Many parents are also concerned that what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut could happen here or another child abduction like the one that Nailla Robinson experienced as a student at Bryant School in West Philly.
So what can you do to keep your child safe at school?
Community activist Orlando Acosta is encouraging parents to keep their kids home until more money is received. This isn’t a good idea because not sending your child to school is against the law in Pennsylvania. By doing so could you risk being hauled into Truancy Court or Family Court and perhaps even DHS (Department of Human Services) will get involved.
So here are some more appropriate ideas that will benefit your child and keep you out oif trouble:
Kids are smart and have very good intuition. Ask your child where in the school do they feel safe and where in the school do they feel unsafe. Ask them why these places make them feel safe or unsafe.
Every school in the Philadelphia School District has heavy metal screens on their windows that are bolted to the building. Walk around the school and make sure that these screens aren’t loose or broken. Take some time to walk around the schoolyard before school starts and look for debris on the ground such as glass or drug paraphernalia. Large shards of glass can be used as a weapon. So can used hypodermic needles. Report these findings to the school’s principal immediately.
If you’re able walk your child to school every day and then pick them up at the end of day please do so. If you can’t do this make sure your child goes with a trusted friend or even a group of friends. There’s safety in numbers.
Don’t paint a target on your child’s back such as letting them take any electronic gadgets to school such as a hand-held game, iPod or even a cell phone. They don’t need these things because they’re there to learn and schools don’t permit them anyway. As much as your child may want to wear those $139 Nike Kobe sneakers to school don’t let him. Purchase a cheap pair of sneakers from Payless or Wal-Mart for school. By leaving expensive items at home you are reducing their chances of becoming a victim.
Take the time to get all the information you need. The school district has an Office of School Safety and they have all their policies as well as plans online for you to read. To access these policies please visit their website at: http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/offices/s/safety.
Get to know the school crossing guards. They are out there every day and will know if anything’s going on with your child. They are truly a wealth of information and are at the corners sometimes earlier than 8:00 AM. The guards which are part of the Philadelphia Police Department are also outside as late at 4:00 PM.
Once school begins all the doors automatically lock at 9:00 AM and sometimes as early as 8:30. Walk around the school later on in the day and try each door. If one is open report this immediately.
Spend some time talking to your child about drugs, weapons, safety and the importance of following the rules. You may not want to talk to them about weapons or drugs, but you can’t afford not to. You might be surprised how much they really know. Don’t have these talks once, but on a regular basis.
It’s also important that you’re aware of your own child’s behavior and how it might be detrimental to other students and staff. Don’t ignore the obvious signs. Get help from a trained professional as soon as possible.
Too many times kids stay silent when they're either being victimized or see it happen. Teach your child to have their own voice and then use it. Loudly. Teach them their is nothing cool or noble about staying silent.
No matter how much preparation there is you can’t have a guarantee that nothing will happen to your child at school. You can reduce the chances by being open and honest when talking to your children.
If you're still concerned about the kind of education your child is getting or of their safety you can start looking at alternatives in October. That;s usually when most educational outlets start the admission process.