More than 50 million kindergarten through 12th grade students will soon return to classrooms with backpacks full of new pencils and books. But one more must-have item should be checked off the back-to-school list - school safety.According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education, an estimated 2.2 million crimes were reported on public school campuses nationwide during the 2005-06 school year alone and 78 percent of schools reported violent incidents. Patrick Fiel, public safety advisor for ADT Security Services and former head of security for Washington, D.C. Public Schools says, "Parents who are actively involved in their student's school security can improve their child's safety and success on campus. Bullies, gangs, drugs, weapons and sex predators are on the streets every day." To help parents prepare for a safe school year, Fiel and ADT have developed a list of safety tips to help parents keep kids safe before, during and after school: Before school: If your child walks or rides a bicycle to school, help him or her choose the safest possible route with the fewest street crossings and walk or ride with him or her if possible. According to a child safety organization, pedestrian injury is the second leading cause of accidental injury-related death among children ages 5 to 14. Talking with children about biking and walking safety can help to reduce their risk of injury. •Be sure there is at least one parent with children waiting at a school bus stop. This is a time when potentially risky activity, such as bullying and fighting, can take place. During school: Educate yourself about school safety and security. Talk to your children about their safety concerns and visit their campus to talk with an administrator about the school's security plan. Find out whether your child's school uses technology like access control and visitor management systems to protect students from potential sex offenders and criminals who may try to gain access to the campus. If a parent can walk into a school unchallenged, so can unwanted visitors. •Get to know the law enforcement officials or other security personnel assigned to your child's school. Find out when they are on campus and what their responsibilities include. If your child's school does not have regularly assigned law enforcement or security presence, work with school administrators and other parents to get it done. After school: If kids are alone in the afternoons, teach them to go straight home, keep doors locked and not answer the door for anyone. •Do not keep firearms easily accessible in your home and talk to kids about the potential dangers of guns and what to do if they find one. If you do have a gun in the house, it is vital to keep it unloaded and in a locked area with the ammunition stored separately. Parents should check their weapons periodically. "Keeping kids safe is one of the most important things parents, teachers, administrators and the surrounding community can help to accomplish this year," Fidel said. "We hope that these tips will remind parents to make school safety a priority so they are able to send their students off to school with confidence."
********** Published: August 14, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 17