The new school year is right around the corner, and the adjustment to returning to school may take a few weeks. Returning to school can be fun and exciting, with every day bringing new experiences, but it can also be difficult for some children. Kids today are faced with far more than learning new material. Interacting with teachers and other students, bullying, peer pressure and school violence are just a few of the challenges children face.
You can help prepare your children for the experiences they will face at school each day and help create a safer school environment. Read the following tips for advice on how to protect your children, and how to teach them to protect themselves.
Getting to School:
· Give yourself plenty of time as you and your children adjust to the new school schedule.
· Map out a safe way for your children to walk to school or to the bus stop.
· Work with other parents in the neighborhood to ensure that children in the neighborhood are supervised closely to and from school.
· Work with your neighbors and your child on identifying “safe houses”, or homes of neighbors who your child is familiar with if your child is scared or needs help on the way to/ from school.
· Point out places they should avoid, such as vacant lots, alleyways, and construction areas.
· Encourage your children to use the “buddy system.”
· Teach your children to never speak to strangers, or go anywhere with a stranger, and let them know its okay to report if a stranger tries to approach them.
· Teach your children to always be aware of their surroundings. Be aware of slow moving vehicles or parked vehicles that appear to be occupied. Choose a different route or walk on the opposite side of the street.
· Children need to pay attention to traffic signals and use crosswalks with a crossing guard if available.
Getting on the Bus:
· Make sure your children arrive at least five minutes early for the bus.
· When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic and avoid roughhousing or other behavior that can lead to carelessness.
· Make sure your children know to stand on the sidewalk while waiting for the bus.
· Teach your children to make sure the bus driver can see them before walking in front of the bus, and to never walk behind a bus.
· Do not stray onto the street, alleys or private property.
· Line up away from the street or road as the bus approaches.
· Wait until the bus has stopped and the door opens before approaching the bus.
· Use the handrail when boarding.
Behavior on the Bus:
· If seat belts are available on the bus, buckle up.
· Don’t speak loudly or make loud noises that could distract the driver.
· Stay in your seat.
· Don’t put your head, arms or hands out the window.
· Keep aisles clear of books and bags.
· Get your belongings together before reaching your stop.
· Wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat.
Getting Off the Bus:
· Use the handrail when exiting.
· If you have to cross in front of the bus, first walk at least 10 feet ahead until you can see the driver.
· Make sure the driver can see you.
· Wait for a signal from the driver before crossing.
· When the driver signals, look left, right, then left again. Walk across the road and keep an eye out for sudden traffic changes.
· If your vision is blocked, move to an area where you can see other drivers and they can see you.
· Do not cross the center line of the road until the driver signals it is safe.
· Stay away from the rear wheels of the bus at all times.
· Be aware that bullying often happens on the bus. Ask your children about their bus rides, who they sit with, and what goes on in the bus. Encourage them to report any bullying behavior.
· Have your children check in with an adult as soon as they get home.
· Show them how to properly lock all doors and windows.
· Make sure they know to never open a door to a stranger.
· Establish a set of rules; who can come over, when homework must be done, and any chores they must do before you get home.
· Find a trusted neighbor who will allow your children to come over in case of an emergency.
· Establish strict rules regarding Internet usage.
· Teach your children to resolve problems without fighting.
· Encourage your children to report bullying behavior, either as a victim or a witness.
· Ask school officials if Internet use is monitored closely.
· Ask school officials about the safety and emergency plans for the school, all schools are required to have one.
· Listen to children and encourage them to talk about their day.
· Take all complaints about bullying seriously, if you don’t your child may not tell you next time.
· Watch for symptoms such as withdrawal, a drop in grades, or new friends.
· Notify the school immediately if you think your child is being bullied, and make sure the school investigates and takes action.
· Praise your children when they are kind to others.
· Teach children self- protection skills; how to walk and talk confidently, stay alert to their surroundings, and to stand up for themselves verbally.
Before your children head out, remind them of these year-round safety tips:
· Never walk while texting or talking on the phone.
· If texting, move out of the way of others and stop on the sidewalk.
· Never cross the street while using an electronic device.
· Be aware of the surroundings.
· Always walk on the sidewalk if one is available; if a child must walk on the street, he or she should face oncoming traffic.
· Look left, right, then left again before crossing the street.
· Cross only at crosswalks.
If you would like further information on school safety, or are interested in other crime prevention topics, please contact the Kern County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Unit at 661-391-7559 or firstname.lastname@example.org.