ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The start of the school year is exciting and stressful for children and parents, so the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention has a list of a few basic tips to get children off to a good start.
“As parents, many of us focus on supplies needed for the school year,” said V. Glenn Fueston, Jr., Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. “It’s important that we also think about other things children need to be safe both inside and outside of the school walls. Most of these tips are things we already know, but bear remembering as the school year begins.”
Young children (90 percent of abuse is perpetrated by someone a child knows and trusts)
Make sure children know:
● Their full name, address including city and state, and phone number including area code
● How and under what circumstances they should call 911
● To never accept a ride or gifts from someone unknown to them
● To always take the same way home from school
● To avoid walking next to curbs
● To walk confidently and to be alert to their surroundings
● To avoid strangers who may hang around playgrounds, public restrooms, empty buildings, etc.
● To be aware of safe places they can go in your neighborhood in an emergency, like a neighbor’s house
● If they become separated from you, teach children to go to a store clerk, security guard, or police officer for help
● To be accompanied to public bathrooms
● That no one, not even someone they know, has the right to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. Tell them they have the right to say “no” in this situation.
● Be aware of putting your child’s name on anything that is readily visible. This might allow an abductor to get on a “first name” basis with your child and develop a false sense of trust
● Be accessible and non-judgmental; be open to whatever a child wants to discuss, and don’t shut down a conversation because a child is talking about something that makes you uncomfortable
● Maintain ongoing communication and dialogue about safety issues. Talk to your child about their body and that no one should ever touch or do anything to them that they don’t like or don’t want
● Don’t keep secrets. Tell your children that there are no secrets kept in your family, and what they can do if someone asks them to keep a secret.
● Respect your child’s decisions if he or she doesn’t want to hug someone, respect that and honor their understanding of their own boundaries and space.
● Monitor internet and phone use
Getting to School
● Walk on the sidewalk; if there is no sidewalk and you must walk in the street, walk facing traffic
● Before crossing the street, stop and look left, right and left again to see if cars are coming
● Never dart out in front of a parked car
● Never walk while texting or talking on the phone
● Do not walk while using headphones or cell phone
● Parents: Practice walking to school with your child, crossing streets at crosswalks when available
● Always wear a helmet that is fitted and secured properly
● Children need to know the rules of the road: Ride single file on the right side of the road, come to a complete stop before crossing the street and walk the bike across
● Watch for opening car doors and other hazards
● Use hand signals when turning
● Wear bright-colored clothing
● Teach children the proper way to get on and off the bus
● Line up 6 feet away from the curb as the bus approaches
● If seat belts are available, buckle up
● Wait for the bus to stop completely before standing
● Do not cross in front of the bus if possible, or walk at least 10 feet ahead until you can see the other drivers
● Drivers, share the road
● Don’t block crosswalks
● Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and take extra care in school zones
● Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians
● Never pass a bus loading or unloading children
● The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them to safely enter and exit the bus
● Teens crash most often because they are inexperienced. They struggle judging gaps in traffic, driving the right speed for conditions and turning safely, among other things. As your teen becomes a new driver, learn more about what you can do as a parent to keep them safe. The Motor Vehicle Administration has a web page devoted to rookie drivers.
Tips for School
● Encourage children to walk and play with friends, not alone. Tell them to avoid places that could be dangerous such as vacant buildings, alleys, new construction, wooded areas, etc.
● Make sure children take the safest routes to and from school, stores, and friend’s houses
● Teach children to walk confidently and to be alert to their surroundings
● Teach children to always take the same way home from school.
● Children should not wear expensive jewelry or clothing to school.
● A child should check in with a parent or trusted neighbor as soon as he/she arrives home from school. Someone should know if he/she is staying late at school.
● Parents should listen carefully to children’s fears and feelings about people or places that scare them or make them uneasy. Tell them to trust their instincts. Take complaints about bullies seriously
● Children should be taught to settle arguments with words, not fists or weapons
● Children should be taught never to take guns, knives, or other weapons to school. They should tell a school official immediately if they see another student with a weapon.
● Always have updated policies and practices in place and communicate them often to staff, volunteers and administration.
* Staff should know and understand their duties as mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect. For more information on mandated reporting of child abuse and neglect, please visit: http://dhr.maryland.gov/child-protective-services/reporting-suspected-child-abuse-or-neglect/mandated-reporters/. For additional training on mandated reporting, please visit www.reportabusemd.com.
● Ensure a child is never alone with one adult. Establish the “Rule of 2’s” (minimum 2 kids & 2 adults) when moving kids or taking them to the restroom
● Evaluate the physical environment of each room; open up hidden areas & secure private spaces. Make it impossible for an adult to be alone or out of sight with a child
● Establish consistent screening policies for volunteers, staff and individuals working in the school or participating in special event activities
For more information about school safety issues, visit http://safeschoolsmd.org/.