As a teacher, private detective, and parent, this topic is near and dear to my heart. Additionally, this topic creates tons of frustration and anger when we start to discuss it in our office and home. Consequently, I would like to convey to you, the concerned parent, some proactive steps you can take to help keep your child safe while at school and school sponsored activities.
First, let's begin by starting with holding your school district's feet to the flame. Sure, this may be unpopular with school districts but I'm sick and tired of complacency. It is unacceptable to me that school districts are dragging their feet when it comes to implementing school security. Here are some questions to take to your school board: 1. What is the safety plan for hostile intruder? 2. Is it in alignment with current best practices like ALiCE or Run, Hide, Fight? 3. How will you be notified what's happening at school? 4. How will you collect your student when it's over?
I have provided links to both programs. But to summarize here's what you should look for: The days of hiding and sheltering in place are over. The hostile intruder protocol should include your student getting out of the school and as far away from the school as possible. If they're in the sight of the school, they are still in the line of fire. One key element to this plan is COMMUNICATION. Your child's school should have a means to communicate where the hostile intruder is located so teachers and staff can make an informed decision how to leave the building and if that's feasible. Clearly, if the hostile intruder is outside the building then moving outside isn't the best idea. But teachers must be able to make the decision.
Furthermore, ask your school district how often the staff and students are trained. If the staff doesn't know what to do in the event of a hostile intruder, the best plan in the world won't help anyone. Interestingly, studies show students who are educated by their teachers about the hostile intruder plan are not frightened by the discussion but comforted that the teacher, the trusted authority in the room, actually has a plan and knows how to implement it.
Lastly, but certainly not all on this topic, initiate a conversation with your student. Talk to them about how to stay safe at school and empower them. I remember a conversation with our son when he was in 3rd grade. When visiting the classroom with him, we pointed out safe exits and how to get out if there was danger. Initially, as most young children, he told us, "I can't do that, I'll get in trouble." We let him know his actions would be okay and he wouldn't get in trouble with us if he acted to save his life and the lives of his classmates. Educate your student how to look for the nearest exits, ask them to create escape plans during school and school events. I teach in a LARGE school, there are plenty of exits. However, we are creatures of habits and go the same way in our daily travels. Ask your older student to familiarize themselves with their school exits.
I know the topic is ugly and I certainly wish I NEVER, EVER had to talk about this with my students and my own children. The reality is we need to be proactive. We need to let our school districts know we want the BEST possible plan, training, and security equipment available. We need to educate ourselves and our children. You certainly don't need to be a sheep dog, but more importantly, we need to stop being sheep.