Parents can help improve safety

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2006

Parents are the No. 1 source that can make sure safety remains of the front burner in schools, the president of the National School Safety and Security consulting firm in Cleveland said last week.

Here are suggested ways:

n Ask good questions to understand school procedures about violence drills, just like you would fire drills and storm drills. Ask respectfully, but don't worry about sounding paranoid or overprotective.

n See if your school invites parents to get involved in devising anti-violence policies.

Even parents not on a formal committee should become familiar with the physical plant of the building – be it by attending band concerts or chaperoning dances – and then make suggestions on how to improve limited lines of sight, lighting and the perimeter of the school, said Ann Harkins, vice president for programs at the National Crime Prevention Council.

n Support security measures. For example, don't scoff at being asked to use a certain door for entry or to check in at the office before moving around the school.

n Encourage children to talk about what's going on in school.

n Never underestimate what a seventh – or even a second – grader says about something that's a cause for concern, Harkins said. Other kids can often tip off adults to a pending safety problem, she added.

Harkins' other suggestion should be a no-brainer. &#8220Talk to kids about guns. Tell them guns have no place in the classroom.”