Happy New School Year!! Our children are super excited to join new schools (well, some of them still have to overcome first day jitters). A visit last year was the best way to determine whether the schools were right for our children before enrolling.
Some parents are still however yearning to get a feel for their chosen school’s climate — intangible but important factors like the dynamism of the teaching, engagement of the children, quality of communication and respect among the school community, and the overall sense that the school offers a safe and inspiring learning environment.
Schools are responsible for protecting our children while in their care. But we can’t take for granted that all schools have adequate policies in place. Here are a few policies that we recommend parents learn about as well:
Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Policies and Procedures
The school should have several measures in place to protect your child. There should be a designated child abuse liaison (or some similar title) who is responsible for arranging training staff on identification and reporting procedures, scheduling personal safety training for the children and coordinating reports of alleged abuse and neglect when they need to be reported. There should be TWO different types of protocols, one that is followed if the parent/guardian is the alleged perpetrator of the abuse or neglect and one that is followed if a teacher, administrator or other school personnel are suspected of abuse. Find out when the school held the last training for all staff on reporting child abuse or neglect.
Background Checks on School Staff
Find out how school staff are cleared before they are allowed to work with your child. Ask about how they screen for past incidents of child abuse, drug screening procedures and criminal background checks. It’s also helpful to know the types of licenses and certifications that are held by the staff. Similarly, you also want to make sure that all volunteers and contracted services personnel, such as the bus driver, have gone through background checks too.
Bullying Prevention Policy.
Be informed. Learn about your school’s policy towards bullying. Find out who you can speak to if your child is bullied. It’s also helpful to write down the details regarding the incident(s), as this record can be helpful to school administrators. If it’s cyberbullying, keep copies of all messages or postings. Commit to making bullying stop. Work closely with your school administrators, other parents. Get help for your child to deal with the stresses of bullying.
Emergency Notification System
Emergencies usually come without much warning. Between fires, natural disasters and tragic school shootings, it’s critical for a parent to know how their child will be protected if these situations occur while they are on the school grounds. Ask about the security coverage at the school. Who takes charge during an emergency? Have all school personnel received training? Find out how you will be alerted if there is an emergency at the school or an emergency with your child. It’s also a good to ask about the frequency of practicing fire drills and other safety drills.
Medical Emergency/First Aid
Find out what happens if your child is injured or has a medical emergency such as an asthma attack, sports injury or allergic reaction while at school. Is there a nurse or another medical provider onsite? Who in the school is trained in CPR? How are medications that a child needs to take during the school day monitored?
Make sure that you understand the school’s plan for transportation. Getting your precious child back and forth to school each day requires several attentive adults to make sure that they get safely from the bus to the school and then back again. Learn the route that your child will travel and information on the bus driver. Visit the bus stop with your child and make sure they know which bus to take to get to school and find out how they find the bus when they leave the school. If your child is walking “head up, phone down” is the way to go. Ensure your nanny/house help is conversant with the school route is she is the one that normally picks your child from school.
As a parent, it is recommended that you also:
- Attend parent teacher conferences.
- Keep the school calendar handy to stay informed about school events.
- Volunteer at your children’s school.
- Get to know your children’s school friends and their families.
Knowledge is power. You will rest easier if you learn more about these policies as the school year progresses. It will also help you manage your own separation anxiety from your first timer school going child. If your school has a website, visit it; some of this information may be online.