I have so many thoughts running through my mind about this tragedy. The massacre of innocent children who were going on with their day preparing for Christmas is jarring, heartbreaking and has left our country completely blown away. I could go on about the loss of life, argue about the need for more gun control, or shame society for mental health stigma. However, as a school teacher with 16 years experience under my belt, I would like to give parents some advice based on this event.
School security is of the utmost importance to the staff. As you can see from today’s events we are pretty much sitting ducks in the building during the day. We cannot lock the doors and have a guard posted out front and we cannot keep the children indoors all day. We have policies in place for a reason and parents really need to be more understanding and stop giving us a hard time when we stick by our rules. Murder is the worst thing that can happen but we also have children who are in the middle of terrible custody battles or have been ‘kidnapped’ by one parent to escape abuse. Procedure and protocol is the best defense we have so far to guard us from danger. Most schools have rules similar to the following list.
- Stop by the office and sign in for every single visit. Yeah we know who you are. Yes we understand you just want to tell drop off his lunch money and go. But we keep record of every single visitor daily. It’s a safety thing. Trust and believe.
- Wear your visitor’s pass at all times. Please do not be insulted when we ask you for it. How often do we see you in the school? Like twice a year? Give us a small break. When they are not your babies, they’re our babies and we must protect them. You need to be identified while you’re on school property.
- Use the front doors even if the door to the parking lot is wide open. The cafeteria may very well be the closest door to your daughter’s classroom but office personnel have a way of keeping an eye out. You slipping in and out of the building makes it very difficult for them to keep track.
- Be prepared to present ID at the office. Again this is for record keeping purposes. Some children are not allowed to go with a parent because he/she doesn’t have legal custody. We must abide by the law.
- Do not take it upon yourself to switch your child’s travel arrangements without notifying the school. Picture it. Jessica wants to ride a different bus to go to her friend’s house after school. She swears she will call you when she gets there to let you know she’s ok. But the babysitter is expecting her at the bus stop and you forgot to tell her about the last minute change of plan. So the babysitter comes to the school looking for Jessica and we have no idea where she is because YOU said it was ok for her to switch buses. Don’t do that to us. I beg of you.
- Give us a working cell phone number. What if your child falls on the playground and is knocked unconscious. We try to call you and your cell number is disconnected. We call the emergency number and they have no idea how to get in touch with you either. I’ve seen it happen before and it’s a nightmare. Don’t leave us hanging with your kid. We’re not professional babysitters.
- Write a note. Write a note. Write a note. If you child has been sick, has to stay after school for a program, is being picked up by someone who isn’t a parent, or is going to be picked up early by you we need to know. Schools are actually required to keep absence notices for up to three years and YES they audit us for that.
- Have an emergency plan in place and make sure your kid knows it cold. So the school has to close early and you are stuck in traffic more than 50 miles away. Your child gets off the bus to gooooo ___________???? The bus driver is gone because it’s not his responsibility to make sure your child makes it to the front door. What is your child supposed to do? Make sure he or she knows what to do if no one is at home right away.
As a mother and a teacher, I pray that not one more school has to be locked down because a madman has decided to slaughter children. But since guns are just a click or two away on the Internet, this threat is far from over. And when the dust settles, someone has to pick up the pieces and try to make sense of the puzzle. Your cooperation in our security procedures will make a difference in getting to the bottom of the madness.
Thanks for reading!