How to Keep Kids Safe at School
Teachers do so much more than help students with math, writing, and reading; they are also responsible for the safety of their students. School violence is on the rise and now many are concerned about the safety of our schools School safety has jumped to the forefront in everyone’s mind. As a principal, former teacher, and parent of two kids, I understand firsthand the worries about school safety.
When my wife and I send our kids off to school, we pray for their safety and well being. What I am going to share with you is simply the experience that I have learned through my 18 years in education and especially my 13 years as a principal.
Check out the TIPPS to keeping your students safe:
- Always keep your door locked – Many classroom doors only lock if they are locked with a key from the hallway. If you have a classroom door that locks from the inside of the room, you are fortunate. If your door locks from the hallway, to maintain your safety and to keep a secure classroom, keep the door locked all the time. This ensures that you won’t need to step into the hallway while an intruder is walking down the hallway. The first thing a teacher will ask is, “How do my students get back into the classroom after going to the lavatory?” You can keep your door locked but slightly ajar by placing a magnet in the door frame (so the magnet rests on the frame and the door closes on the magnet). If your magnet is thick enough, the door handle will stay locked, the door will not latch when closed, and students can enter a locked door. If there is an intruder in the building, simply pull out the magnet and close the door (This prevents you from going into the hallway in the line of fire from an intruder). A cheaper, but less durable option, is to wrap a rubber band around the metal latch plate from the front of the plate to the back.
This stops the door from latching and keeps the door locked but still open to access. Pull out the rubber band, and the door is closed and secure.
- Make Your Room Look Empty – The goal is for the intruder to look into your room, on a quick walk down the hall, and think that your room is empty. You can do this by gathering students in a wall/corner farthest away from the door. It can help to turn off your lights and or cover your door window. However, door windows should always have clear visibility into the hallways during regularly scheduled school time, this protects you and the students from any allegations.
- Practice Your Drills – Whether your school chooses to do this or not, regularly practice drills with your students so they know what to do if an intruder is in the building.
- Pay Attention to Students – Watch students as they enter your class, look for warning signs such as clothing that appears to be bulky or being weighed down by something, a student appearing nervous or shifty, or students chatting about something. Also, if a student has a gun, they will often keep feeling that area such as a pocket, jacket, hemline, etc. to see if the gun is still in place. Watch for this behavior and report if you suspect anything suspicious.
- Keep Your Safety Plan in the Same Spot That’s Easy to See/Find – Your school safety plan is critical in times of emergencies, it’s important that you know the plan and can execute the plan.
- Report Anything Suspicious - What I love about teachers is that they live a life of routine. That means you will often recognize something that seems out of place. If you see someone sitting in their car for a long time, a suspicious person outside the school, or a car that drives around the school regularly, report this to your school administration and/or police.
- Trust Your Instincts – Too often people talk themselves out of reporting something they think may be suspicious because they are nervous about being wrong or appearing foolish.
- Build Relationships - By building strong and positive relationships with students, they may trust you in sharing warning signs that they may hear in the hallways, online, through texts, or by a friend.
As you are teaching how to write the alphabet or helping students learn division, remember that school safety is more important than any subject we teach. Know your school’s protocols, study your school crisis manual, trust your instincts, and report anything that appears suspicious. But most of all, build relationships with students that are based on trust, integrity, and genuine care.
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