This time of year I’m reminded of that Staples commercial that ran a few years back—the one with the Dad joyfully skipping through the store, gathering school supplies with his children to the song It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. It still makes me chuckle. As much as we all love the long, lazy days of summer together, many of us parents look forward to re-establishing routine–and yes, sending our kids back to school.
The start of school can bring on a little anxiety for both parents and students though, especially those starting school in a new building. The K-12 school years are full of transition—preschool to elementary, elementary to middle, middle to high, and perhaps a few moves in between. For families facing a transition year, it’s not only a new building to learn, it’s a whole new staff to meet.
Whether your family is well established or stepping into a new school, these are some of the folks you can work with for a safe school year:
Often most familiar to parents and families, the office staff meets and greets visitors and students every day. Answering questions and calls all day makes them expert sources for information and direction. Take time to ensure that these staff members know you and have your family’s current contact and emergency information. Learn from them about visiting, arrival, and dismissal procedures, as well as how to find important day-to-day and emergency information.
It’s not just about Band-Aids and bumped knees anymore. Our school nurses have a hand in all things health and wellness in school. School nurses can be powerful experts and advocates for student and family needs in school. Pay a visit to the nurse, introduce yourself, and offer support to start a relationship that will benefit your child and family for years to come.
School Resource and Security Officers
More and more schools are working to bring trained safety and security professionals on board. These officers are a part of our schools to build strong, supportive relationships with students, provide safety and security education, handle crises, and advocate for the needs of the school community with local police, fire, and emergency responders. Reach out to learn how you can support their work to keep students and staff safe in school.
School Counselors, Psychologists, and Social Workers
You’ll find that the door is always open to parents who want to support and learn about guidance and social-emotional programs, school climate and culture, and mental health resources. Get to know these leaders in school safety to connect your child and family with resources for a safe and supportive school year.
You may already know the names and faces of your school’s administrative staff, but after the back-to-school busy-ness has subsided a bit, it pays to reach out to your school’s administrators to talk safety. Simply communicating this priority to administrators is not only a powerful way to advocate for school safety, it’s also a great opportunity to listen, ask questions, and learn where you can become involved.
Organizing, campaigning, and fundraising for the needs of students and staff, school Parent Teacher Associations and Organizations offer great resources and opportunities for involvement. Supporting your school’s PTA/O is a natural way to learn about and support the safety needs of your school community.
Club and Activity Advisors
From chorus and band teachers to sport coaches and club advisors, these adults are important links to the extracurricular lives of our children. Check in with these members of the school community to stay up to date on what happens after the bell rings. Connect with them to share concerns and inquire about any patterns.
Teachers, Aides, and Educational Assistants
Most schools offer numerous opportunities for parents and families to interact with their child’s educators. From email communication and online portals to Back-to-School-Nights and volunteer opportunities, it’s often most easy to get to know these staff members. While most of your conversations will naturally center on growth and academics, take time to talk safety with your child’s teachers throughout the year to learn how you can be supportive both in school and at home.
Of course, no one knows better than the students themselves. Your child will tip you off to many other dedicated adults in school that connect with and support their safety and well-being, such as cafeteria staff, custodians, librarians, and volunteers–to name a few. Make it a point to connect with these folks too. Your level of support and involvement says a great deal about how important your child’s safety is to you.
– Michele Gay, Executive Director/Co-Founder Safe and Sound Schools