Parents for Safe Schools – How to Get Involved in School Safety
The recent State of School Safety Report for 2018 brings to light a lack of communication and misunderstanding about school safety among parents, students, and educators. Safe and Sound Schools is addressing this need with some quick, simple ideas for how parents can get more involved. Some ideas are meant to spark conversation and communication, others are more focused on assessing school safety needs, and others are designed for action.
School safety isn’t one person’s responsibility, it is the responsibility of every school community member. As parents, we should have a seat at the table and play an active, present role in ensuring the safety of our students.
Form a parent safety team within your school community. This could be the organizing body for activities and communications throughout the year. You an also tap into the Safety Team to have discussions with leaders and administrators to share the resources, toolkits, and ideas from Safe and Sound Schools. Another idea is to bring them the State of School Safety report and ask about how your school would answer the questions.
During back-to-school night, or perhaps hold a stand-alone event, where you bring together the different groups and roles responsible for school safety, for example, public safety officials, school-based mental wellness staff, student leadership groups, school resource officers, etc.
Conduct a survey in your community to get a better sense of what concerns they have, as well as what assets already exist. Perhaps you have a parent who is also a public safety officer, or another who is a mental health expert, or one who has been studying the influence of media on our youth. You might find some real gems and people who can enrich your community’s knowledge.
Hold an event just for parents, either an evening event with dessert or even a breakfast event where you can discuss various safety topics among parents and school officials. You can find out what concerns are on the minds of parents so you can prioritize topics/guests, and even turn it into a regular series. Your parent experts identified through research could offer a lot of value here.
Building on the parent night idea, but a Speaker Series would bring in guests and experts from outside the school community. These might be experts on potential safety threat areas, like bullying, or it might be a parent from another district who has a personal experience to share. Some speakers will come for free, others might charge an honorarium. Another way to engage parents through a speaker series would be to hold a webinar or web-based chat, so if parents can’t come one night, they can still see the conversation online.
Gather together groups of parents who want to learn new skills to improve the safety of their school. For example, CPR training is something that can literally save lives. Learning how to spot warning signs among youth or role playing how to talk to your students are other potential hands-on trainings you could help bring to your community.
Help increase the overall school safety literacy of those in your community by sharing credible and practical content. Safe and Sound Schools vets the content we share on our social media platforms, so you know you can trust the material to share on your social networks.
Your students are already knowledgeable about the state of school safety in their schools. Help them turn their insight into practical steps toward improving school safety. You can help bring their voices to school administrators. You can even bring the Safe and Sound Youth Council to your students and student leaders in the school.
Foster a proactive, productive conversation about school safety through regular contributions to school communications. Whether a column in a PTA/PTO email, a school newspaper, or in quarterly emails from the principal to parents, or even age-appropriate posters in schools, keep the conversation going.
Read A Book
When looking for new ways to talk to kids about school safety, take a page out of the experts’ books. Literally. Becky Coyle, a school resource officer at an elementary school in Tennessee, has written three illustrated books about school safety. One book is about the role of a school resource officer, another is about lockdown drills, and the third is about intruders in the school (in this case, in the form of a dog). These are excellent tools to help broach the topic of school safety with your children. You can also give a set to your teachers or school library.
Check in with your school to see if they have an anonymous tip-reporting system. Help them promote the tool through posters, announcements, and even guest speakers. If they don’t have a system, help them get one. Giving students, staff, teachers and administrators a safe way to report concerns will increase the likelihood of stopping a security threat before it starts.
Launch a volunteer program at your school designed to have more adults on hand during busy moments such as arrival, dismissal, or lunchtime. Make an effort to get as many parents CORI-certified as possible to strengthen your volunteer force.
Tell Us Your Story
Be a part of the greater national conversation. Share what’s working in your community with us, we can add it to our resources and share it with the thousands of educators and communities we meet throughout the country.
One way to help fund speakers and safety improvements is to tap into the power of the parent networks to fundraise. Asking friends, family members, and neighbors to support school safety for your children will help defray costs while having a tangible benefit to the community. Have a bake sale or lemonade stand, run a “Change for School Safety” collection drive, start a GoFundMe page, sell tickets to a talent show, or even hold a silent auction. A little bit spread over a broad network will go a long way.
Keep the conversation going over the summer. Take advantage of Safe and Sound School’s 100 Days of Safety program. Turn it into a booklet to give to teachers, staff, and administrators at the end of the year, or share it with your social networks.
Go Beyond School
Your students may be involved in other non-school-based learning settings, such as after-school programs, religious schools, sports teams/clubs, arts/dancing schools, or vacation/summer camp. You should ask the organizers of these programs their stance on safety. Showing them the Safe and Sound Schools free programs may give them new ideas about ways to keep kids safe, even outside of traditional schools.
One point we can’t stress enough, though, is that you can have the very best idea in the world, but to overcome the communication barriers existing in our schools, ideas can’t be implemented in a vacuum. As a parent hoping to make change and improve the safety of your school, you should reach out and work with the school administrators and parent/teacher organizations/associations. In this way, you can gain insight into what is already being done at your school, identify areas where the school or PTA/PTO could use more support, and collaborate on new ways to bring your ideas to life.
If you would like to play a more focused and organized role for our national movement, such as becoming a volunteer parent liaison for Safe and Sound Schools, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.