Hot Button Issues in Education Today: Child Safety in School
By Judy Molland

School safety has been a front-burner issue since the shootings at Columbine and other schools, as well as the violence of Sept. 11, which renewed the nation’s focus on security overall.

Numerous factors contribute to making a school safe and secure. Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, an Ohio-based consulting firm specializing in school security, says security and emergency preparedness measures should be balanced with violence prevention and intervention programs.

Just how safe are our schools today? Experts agree that children are safer in schools than anywhere else in the community, because that’s where they have the highest degree of supervision. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the chances of a child being killed in a school are less than one in a million. Still, Trump points out that there has been a slight increase in school violence over the past year, and he sees a clear reason for this.

“The longer in time we get away from Columbine and the other spate of national school shootings, the greater the human tendency to become complacent and to again deny that high-profile violence can occur in our schools and communities.”

In the face of such concerns, what can parents do to help ensure their children’s safety at school? Trump suggests the following:

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• Ask your child about safety in his or her school. What kinds of rules or classroom lessons deal with safety?

• Identify both child and parent comfort levels and methods for reporting safety concerns.

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">• Examine the outside access to your school. Are entrance doors locked? Are visitors required to report to the main office. Can office staff see who is entering the building?

• Find out if your school has procedures on security and crisis preparedness. Determine whether the school has a safety plan.

Ask if school crisis guidelines are tested and exercised. Determine whether school employees have received training on school security.

Honestly evaluate whether you, as a parent, are doing your part to make schools safe. Follow the school’s rules regarding visitors and the reporting of student absences or early dismissals. Keep in mind that ensuring your child’s safety to and from school is also important, as well as being familiar with the state of the school’s facilities, which should be clean and well-maintained.