To the delight of some and the dismay of others, the season of swimming and boating and fireworks and heat waves and mosquitoes is on its way out. (I fall into the “delight” category, in case you were wondering.) Before we know it, that first bell will ring and the fall school semester will be underway.
Though I’ve prioritized spending time with my kids and enjoying these last few relaxing and low-key summer days above all else, I realize that the time has come to begin preparations to send them back to school. There are clothes, shoes, backpacks, lunchboxes, and school supplies to purchase; orientations and meet-the-teacher nights to attend; after-school sports, clubs, and activities to register for; sports physicals, vaccinations, and dentist appointments to take care of; and new schedules to implement. Excuse me for a moment while I practice deep-breathing exercises to slow my suddenly-racing heart…
That lengthy sentence above basically covers everything on my 2012 back-to-school to-do list. My 2013 back-to-school to-do list looks similar, but one significant addition stands out: I’ve added “review school safety guidelines” to the number one slot.
Aside from preparing my son – and his teacher, school nurse, and school administrators – to handle his asthma and severe peanut allergy, I didn’t worry a great deal about school safety last year. I knew that, as a kindergartener, my son would fall into the youngest and therefore most supervised class of kids at his elementary school, and I planned to greatly reduce the risks associated with traveling between home and school by walking him to and picking him up from the front door every morning and afternoon.
But now that kindergarten is behind us and we’re moving on to first grade, my thoughts on school safety have evolved. I’ve come to realize that school safety is everyone’s responsibility – from the school board and each school’s administrators to teachers and counselors to the kids themselves – and it’s important for kids to understand how they fit into the school safety puzzle.
To prepare for the upcoming school year, my son and I will shop for new shoes and backpacks, introduce ourselves to new teachers, and start getting up early. We’ll go over when to use and practice administering the inhaler and the epi-pen. And we’ll review the list of safety information and tips below so that both of us will head into first grade at the top of our safety game.
Verify that your child knows:
- Their address and home phone number (or a parent’s cell phone number, in the case that your family doesn’t have a home phone).
- Their parents’ work contact information.
- The name of and phone number for another trusted adult.
- How and when to call 911.
Getting To and From School
Go with your children to the bus stop – and pick them up from the bus stop – for (at least) the first few days of school to help them learn how to safely wait for, board, and cross the street near the bus. Children should:
- Wait for the bus on the sidewalk or at least six feet from the curb.
- Board the bus only after it has stopped and the driver has instructed them to do so.
- Cross the street at least 12 feet in front of the bus, where the bus driver can see them and they can see the bus driver.
Just as you should help children learn how to safely navigate traveling to and from school by bus, you should also help children learn how to safely navigate traveling to and from school by bicycle or on foot. Bike and/or walk their route more than once ahead of time to teach them how to make it to school and back home safely. Children should:
- Travel their route ahead of time with you to review where to bike and/or walk (on the sidewalk, if one is available, or on the correct side of the street if there isn’t a sidewalk), where to cross the street, and the applicable vehicle, bicyclist, and pedestrian traffic laws.
- If at all possible, bike or walk to and from school with a friend.
- Never talk to or accept rides from strangers.
- Always wear a correctly-fitting helmet when riding bikes. NO EXCEPTIONS.
Safety at School
Many school-related injuries could be prevented by following just a few, simple safety tips. Children should:
- Use backpacks that are ergonomically designed with safety and comfort in mind, always use both straps, and never overstuff their backpacks. (Backpacks shouldn’t weigh more than 10-20% of a child’s body weight.)
- Stay safe on playgrounds by keeping their distance from swinging swings, keeping hands and feet within the sides of slides, only sliding feet first, and never rough-housing on playground equipment. Bumps and bruises from playground activities are inevitable (my son bloodied a knee or bruised a shin at least once a week last year), but these basic precautions will reduce the number and the severity of playground injuries significantly.
And last but not least, consider enrolling your child in a CPR or first aid course through the American Red Cross. If your child is not old enough to receive their CPR and/or first aid certification (contact your local chapter of either organization to find out at what age certification is available), take a class yourself and teach your children the skills you think they’re old enough to understand and use should an emergency arise.
For additional information on American Red Cross classes, click here .
For more back-to-school safety tips, visit the following websites:
Let’s make this school year a safe one for all of our kids!