As the nation recovers from shootings in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Gilroy, California, parents are sending their children to school with renewed trepidation.
“There’s a whole broader context of what’s been going on in the post-Parkland world … it’s not necessarily one particular incident, but it’s a cumulative effect,” says school safety expert Kenneth Trump.
As the president of National School Safety and Security Services, he notes that parents shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of safety by fencing, fortified entrance ways, cameras and extensive drills, that don’t address the root cause of most school violence.
“The common thread,” he says, “is that they involve allegations of failures of people, policies, procedures, communications and systems, not allegations of failures of security hardware and product.”
Phyllis Fagell, a school counselor and the author of “Middle School Matters: The 10 Key Skills Kids Need to Thrive in Middle School and Beyond — and How Parents Can Help,” says parents should find ways to manage their stress.
“We have to figure out ways to become a non-anxious presence for our kids,” she says.
• Keep your perspective: Both Kenneth Trump and Michael Dorn — executive director of Safe Havens International, non-profit campus safety organization — say there are more pressing threats on campuses across the country. More likely are traffic issues, non-custodial parents, bullying, sexual assault, and even weather emergencies.
Dorn says focusing on these more typical dangers can also reduce the likelihood of a shooting, because schools and parents will address overarching safety and personnel issues that can contribute to traumatic events.
And parents should remember that schools, on the whole, are actually safer than they were two decades ago.
• Communicate and participate: “Have some honest and open communications when there isn’t a crisis in the headlines in your local community or elsewhere,” Trump says.
If parents do see an area where safety measures can be improved, they should bring it to the school’s attention in a supportive way, he adds.
• Hold up your end: Parents have a responsibility to follow the safety procedures schools put in place.
“Many times parents will run in, park where they’re not supposed to … and want to take their lunch or something, something the kid forgot in. No. The rules are, go to the office. So, first of all, follow the rules and be a part of that process,” Trump says.
• Treat school like school: Dorn, Fagell and Trump all stress, above anything, the importance of not treating school like a dangerous activity.
Fagell encourages parents to rehearse phone numbers, practice routes walking to and from school, and go over what to do in case of an emergency.
“But really what parents should be doing is saying, ‘Have a great day; I’m so excited; I can’t wait to hear what you learned, and I want to hear who you played with — and tell me what the teachers talk about and if they do something funny,’ ” Fagell says.
— Jorie Goins, Tribune News Service