Monday through Friday we send our kids off to school, away from our protective arms with faith that they will be safe and protected from all of the dangers of the world. In my house, mornings are crazy. We are always missing a shoe or a hair tie and sometimes by the time I get the car loaded I am even missing a kid! I grab the toast from the toaster and toss it in the back seat to make sure my kids get breakfast. As I drop my son off at Kindergarten I always make sure to take a minute to hug him, give him a kiss and squeeze his tiny little face while whispering, “I love you.” The truth is, it is a scary thing to release our children into the hands of our schools.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where school safety is an important topic for us to discuss and be aware of. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound min.d” (2 Timothy 1:7) Every time my social media feed says “School Shooting” my heart sinks. As a Youth Advocate and a mom this has to stop! Every day I trust God and every day he gives me peace that goes beyond my mental understanding. I pray to be a part of the prevention of these awful tragedies. “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16).
What do we do?
1. Educate ourselves
Each school should have their own security procedures. What does your child’s school do to prevent danger, to protect your child, to look out for the hurting? What does your school plan for after a trauma, what kind of aid for the students and community do they have set up? Look into the policies and evaluate whether or not you feel they are effective.
This year, NBC’s Today show did a series called “School Danger Zone.” In one of the segments they highlighted what they called the “safest” school in America: Southwestern High School in Indiana. This school has set up preventative measures like we haven’t seen before. Each teacher has a panic button that puts the school on lock down. They have security cameras that send a live feed to and from the local Sheriff’s office, and are able to set off smoke bombs in the hallway if needed. You may feel this is extreme, but is it? We are in a time of regular threats, so why not be prepared? “It used to be that education was the one thing that schools did, now we have to keep our kids safe first”. –Educator Today.com
2. Get involved and have a voice
Knowing the culture of your child’s school is half the battle of feeling like your child is safe. Some of the best schools in America have a high level of parent involvement. When you interact with your child’s class, no matter what their age, you are able to see how they are being treated, if they are being bullied, picked on or demonstrating odd behavior.
Parent involvement helps with the culture of a school. A positive culture of adults who truly care about the kids means everything to the atmosphere of the campus. This helps to create a safe environment and reduces bullying.
When we, as parents, are involved in our children’s education we are able to help in the decision-making. You are your child’s biggest advocate. Speak up!
3. Initiate fund allocation and fund raising
I know you just heard the sound “wah-wah” in your head. It isn’t fun to raise money, but schools often do not have the budget to keep our kids safe, shocking and sad, but true. A school in AZ recently came under scrutiny because they had not updated their security cameras. “A 12 News investigation reveals the Paradise Valley Unified School District has not been forthcoming with students, parents and staff regarding security cameras at one of its high schools.” -12news.com. The school did not have the budget to fix their broken security cameras. Schools are not required to have cameras, so due to budgetary restrictions, many schools do not have working cameras or cameras at all.
Many schools need remodels to make sure there is only one secured entrance to the school with a buzz in system of some kind.
Many schools do not have a budget for a certified Counselor. School counselors are imperative to both the prevention of tragedy as well as the healing after an incident.
Schools need resident Security Guards/ Police Officers, which again most schools are not able to afford.
4. Ask God for wisdom and use our parent intuition
Don’t forget that we have God on our side, and He is much bigger than all of this. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)
Have you had those moments where you just feel a little “off” about letting your child go to a friend’s house, or taking them to school that day? Trust that, we have mommy and daddy intuition and God leads us. I tend to want to dismiss those funny feelings I have about a fellow class mate of my child’s, but I trust it.
As you are involved at your child’s school put on your intuitive wise glasses and look out for things that make you feel like something isn’t right. It may stem from a student or a staff member. You may notice a stranger on campus that doesn’t seem like he belongs. Trust your instinct and say something.
5. Facilitate positive encouragement and programming
Many students who demonstrate violent behavior have never had anyone show them love. We have the opportunity to show people the love of Christ. We can change a student’s or a fellow adult’s outlook just by showing that we care.
Many schools focus on “anti-bullying” programs or curriculum. I believe it is important to focus on the positive things to change a culture. A great organization focusing on shining the light in the darkness is Rachel’s Challenge. Rachel’s Challenge brings positive challenges based on the life of Rachel Scott, to campuses all over the world. These schools are experiencing lasting positive change.
Character education is a requirement for public schools. ‘Effective schools seek to develop and reinforce character traits, such as caring, citizenship, fairness, respect, responsibility, and trustworthiness, through a systematic approach that includes adult modeling, curriculum integration, a positive school climate, and access to comprehensive guidance and counseling services.’ -http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/yd/ce/ What is your child’s school doing to develop lasting character? You can help enforce a positive message that will make a lasting impression in students’ lives.
When the house is clean, the bills are paid and our relationships are going well, our lives feel in order. We feel peace; the same peace happens when we have done our part to set in place preventative safety measures at our children’s schools. We can do this by the grace of God. I encourage you to begin to take these steps while working with the school’s faculty and staff. They are not your enemies, they are your partners. They are working hard every day to set up a structure of safety and you can help them with kindness and gentleness. We are a support to our schools when we make steps to ensure our children’s safety with respect and encouragement. Let’s all work together – faculty, staff, counselors and parents – to prevent further tragic headlines. I am praying for the schools in our country. Thank you for praying and doing your part to see change.