Tips for Choosing a Safe School, by Heidi Ganahl

Heidi GanahlColorado School Grades partners with Moms Fight Back to highlight school safety issues. In this post, the organization’s founder Heidi Ganahl offers an update to her 2013 blog post about how to choose a safe school.

As moms, one of our biggest concerns is keeping our children and families safe – sometimes that means our own watchful eye and sometimes that means trusting our kids to the safe keeping of others. As much as we love our children, we simply can’t be by their side every minute of every day and it falls to our community schools and school officials, as well as our children’s teachers, to maintain the level of safety we expect and that our children need to thrive.

All children deserve safe classrooms where they can learn and grow without fear or stress – but not all schools are created equal. With school choice, we as parents are able to make careful, more deliberate decisions about where to send our kids to school – but finding the right school is much more than simply comparing teachers, curriculum, performance, and extra curricular activities. School safety standards and procedures must be a part of the math we do when weighing one school against another.

So how and where can you learn more about the safety of the school your child attends, or the school you’re considering?

You can talk to school officials, other parents, and directly to your own child – asking your child if they feel safe at school is a great way to begin to gauge safety at school. But it can be difficult to get the full picture on school safety when it comes to issues like bullying, internet safety, social media safety, and mental illness in youth. And it can be even more difficult to get real answers about things like weapons at school and physical violence in the classroom.

Even if you’re already happy with the school your child attends, and especially if you’re doing research in consideration of a move, keep an eye to safety by asking these important questions:

  1. Who at the school is responsible for school safety and are they immediately available and authorized to make decisions if there is an incident?
  2. Are there specific and easy to understand policies and procedures in place and enforced around issues like social media, internet use, bullying, weapons, and physical violence?
  3. What efforts are being made to eliminate safety threats at school?
  4. Is there an anti-bullying program in place at the school and are students and teachers alike made familiar with the program?
  5. Is there an anonymous reporting system available to students who have experienced or witnessed violence or bullying at school?
  6. What is the school’s response to students who are troubled or known to be bullies?
  7. How and when is the parent community notified of violent or threatening incidents at the school?
  8. Is there a plan with local first responders in preparation for an emergency situation?
  9. In the event of a crisis, where can parents call and what are the procedures for retrieving children from school should an emergency arise?

For additional information and questions to ask your child’s school, The National School Safety and Security Services created a list of 10 Practical Things Parents Can Do To Assess School Security and Crisis Preparedness.

Excerpted from the Back to School Safety eBook by Moms Fight Back.