School Safety Tips for Parents

Feel powerless as a parent when it comes to school safety? These practical tips will give you peace of mind, while making you a valuable partner in the process.

School safety is on everyone’s minds nowadays. It seems that every week, the news brings more horrific reports of another school shooting.

As parents, we can sometimes feel helpless. After all, we can’t singlehandedly change gun laws or improve mental health funding in the United States.

Feel powerless as a parent when it comes to school safety? These practical tips will give you peace of mind, while making you a valuable partner in the process.

But there are plenty of simple action steps we can take to help ensure our own children’s safety at school. Not to mention their own (and OUR own!) peace of mind in these unsettling times.

Feel powerless as a parent when it comes to school safety? These practical tips will give you peace of mind, while making you a valuable partner in the process.Our school district recently held a parents’ information session on school safety tips and resources for parents. The information they provided, including tips from professionals at a local counseling center, was really well put-together. So much so, I wished all parents could have access to it.

So here you go:

School Safety Tips for Parents

1. Educate yourself on your district’s school safety efforts

If you’re active in your children’s school, through PTO/PTA or volunteering, you may already know some of this. For example, each week I volunteer at the girls’ school, where outer doors remain locked during school.

Feel powerless as a parent when it comes to school safety? These practical tips will give you peace of mind, while making you a valuable partner in the process.
Security at the girls’ school starts with a camera outside the main entrance.
  • To get into the building, I request access via a security camera/intercom system, then get buzzed into the office.
  • The office already has my security clearances on file, but I still have to sign in using my driver’s license and a digital system that records the time I enter/leave the building.
  • When the system scans my driver’s license each week, it prints out a bright-yellow sticker with my photo/name. This is my temporary badge to be in the building.
  • And even with all that, I can only go to the classroom once the secretaries confirm that the teacher has me listed as an outside visitor for that day and time.

Action tips for parents:

If you don’t know where your district stands on school safety, ask these questions:

  1. Do all the buildings remain locked during school hours? Does your school monitor everyone who enters/leaves the building?
  2. Do the classrooms remain locked during the day? If not, can teachers instantly lock them, without keys?
  3. Do students practice intruder (lockdown/armed shooter) drills? How often?
  4. When was your district’s last security audit? (Our district’s last security audit was 2013; several parents at our meeting urged school officials to do another.)
  5. Does your district have security/safety resource officers? In each building? What about a school safety committee?
  6. What programs does your district have to promote students’ social/emotional health? Anti-bullying initiatives? School-wide positive behavior support initiatives? Academic and behavioral supports? “Table talks” with school counselors?1
  7. Does your school encourage students to be “responsible reporters“, in an effort to defuse potential school safety threats?
  8. Does your district or local police have a tipline where you/your students can anonymously report potential threats? If so, what is the number?
  9. Feel powerless as a parent when it comes to school safety? These practical tips will give you peace of mind, while making you a valuable partner in the process.Does your school use the ALICE protocol? (ALICE stands for Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate. This system is considered the leading civilian protocol for handling active shooter situations.)

2. Keep lines of communication open

Having the best possible school plans in place is a start, but another key puzzle piece is keeping lines of communication open

  • between you and your kids;
  • between you and your kids’ teachers/principal/counselors;
  • and between your kids and their teachers/principal/counselors.

This is one reason I volunteer regularly at the girls’ school (and one reason I’ve chosen a line of work where I have the flexibility to set my own schedule). I know the teachers, the principal, and the counselor. They know me. And we’re in regular communication with each other.

Action tips for parents:

Even if you can’t be as “present” in your kids’ school, there are other things you can do to keep communication lines open:

Feel powerless as a parent when it comes to school safety? These practical tips will give you peace of mind, while making you a valuable partner in the process.
Teach your kids to be “responsible reporters”; if you see something, say something.
  1. Get to know your kids’ teachers; attend parent-teacher sessions and school events.
  2. Encourage your kids to report concerns they have, or overhear from other kids, to you. “Responsible reporting” is crtitical in helping to keep everyone safe.
  3. Encourage your kids to share any concerns they have with their teachers, school counselors, and/or principal.
  4. If your kids report something to you, pass on the information to the principal and/or local police so they can investigate.
  5. USE YOUR INTUITION, and teach your kids to do the same. If something you hear or see seems “not quite right,” there’s a reason your gut is telling you that, and you shouldn’t ignore it.
  6. Talk to your kids, in age-appropriate ways, about their safety concerns. Make sure they know they can always talk to you.
  7. Find out the terminology your kids’ school uses, and mirror that messaging at home. For example, our elementary school regularly practices “intruder” drills, which they explain as “someone’s in the building who shouldn’t be here.” This is much easier for kids to process (without freaking out) than calling them “lockdown” or “active shooter” drills, even though that’s what they are.
  8. Discuss “intruder drills” with your kids in an age-appropriate way. Make sure they understand that, just like a fire drill, it’s important for everyone to follow the teacher’s instructions quickly and responsibly.
  9. Validate your child’s feelings, if they’re scared or worried. Reassure them that they’re safe by bringing it back to the local level. Ask them if they’ve ever had a fire, tornado, or anything else that they’ve ever drilled for at school; point out that intruder drills are the same thing.

Lots of little conversations are better than one big conversation. But if you’re having trouble broaching the subject, try taking a long drive with your kids and chatting in the car.

3. Mental Health and Safety at Home

In addition, there’s a lot parents can do to promote a healthy environment at home. This will help both you AND your kids stay on even keel during these challenging times.

Feel powerless as a parent when it comes to school safety? These practical tips will give you peace of mind, while making you a valuable partner in the process.I remember when the September 11th attacks happened. I was living thousands of miles away from my friends and family on the East Coast. In part because I felt as if I should be back East with them, I spent way too much time glued to the TV. After a few days, I realized a few things:

  • I was becoming obsessed; and
  • I was feeling traumatized from spending every spare waking moment watching the horrors unfold on TV, over and over again.

This is one reason I’m glad we don’t watch TV at home, nor do we have a cable or dish subscription. But if a television ban is too drastic, there are plenty of other ways you can model and promote mental health at home:

How to do mental health check-ins:

Kids follow the cues of the grownups around them. If you’re worried about your kids’ safety and security at school, your kids will pick up on this. So it’s important for us as parents to monitor our own feelings, and teach our kids to do the same.

Here are some quick, easy check-ins that parents can use to keep track of their own mental health, and teach to their kids:

  1. How are you sleeping? Much more (or much less) than usual?
  2. How are you eating? Much more (or much less) than usual?
  3. Are you acting out? (For parents, this can include verbal explosions; in your kids, also look for aggressive behavior like hitting and punching.)
  4. Are you staying home more than usual, afraid to leave the house, or avoiding your normal activities?
  5. Is your work performance suffering?

If your answers suggest that something’s amiss, it’s important to take action – and, as relevant, to teach your kids to do the same:

  • Take care of yourself. You can’t be there for your kids if you’re struggling to keep it together.
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs, and caffeine; these will only make things worse.
  • Keep your normal routines; withdrawing from life won’t help, either.
  • Don’t overdose on TV news, which (as I learned after 9/11) can lead to mental trauma.
  • Take a break from social media, too. Focus on the facts, not the rumor mill. Block or unfriend people if their posts fuel your negative feelings.
  • If these tips aren’t enough, don’t be afraid to get professional help.
Feel powerless as a parent when it comes to school safety? These practical tips will give you peace of mind, while making you a valuable partner in the process.
As I’m working on this post, Kimmie is playing on the family iPad, right between me and my hubby. Parental supervision is iPad Rule #1.

More action tips for parents:

  • Know your kids’ friends, whereabouts, and social media passwords.
  • If it’s not too late, take the Wait Until 8th pledge, and promote this idea in your community.
  • Make sure your kids aren’t overdosing on news indirectly, through your own news consumption.
  • Monitor (and as needed, restrict) your kids’ internet and social media use, too. Delaying their access to smartphones will help keep them from spending too much time on social media, which correlates with an uptick in teenage depression rates. So will setting a positive example with your own internet access; for example, our family bans devices at mealtimes,
  • Help your kids process what they’re feeling in age-appropriate ways. It’s okay to share some of your own concerns and fears with them, as long as the overall tone is reassuring, and you keep the conversation age-appropriate.
  • DON’T have adult conversations on this topic in front of your children. Restrict such conversations to times and places where your children won’t overhear you, and get upset.

4. What NOT to do in challenging times

Finally, the school officials gave us some excellent tips for what to do if we get a security update about an incident at one of our local schools. We’ve been getting at least one such update a week from our school district lately, via the parents’ app on our smartphones. The increased national focus on issues of school safety has this topic high on everyone’s minds, and students have been super-on-top-of reporting potential threats to school officials. This has meant lots of “faculty holds” and similar non-emergency “security updates.”

Feel powerless as a parent when it comes to school safety? These practical tips will give you peace of mind, while making you a valuable partner in the process.It’s important to understand that, in our district at least, there is a difference between a “faculty hold” and a “lockdown.” Lockdowns are reserved for intruders and intruder drills. A faculty hold is similar in that students remain in their classrooms, but it’s used for, say, a medical emergency (when the hallways need to be clear so paramedics can respond quickly) and investigations (when school officials are looking into potential threats, and want to be able to interview students while protecting their privacy).

I admit, the first time we got an alert of a “faculty hold” – hours before the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida unfolded – I freaked out a little bit, not knowing what it meant. Besides clarifying for us that “faculty holds” are VERY different than being under lockdown, even if they might look the same on some levels, district officials gave us some great tips for how to respond to a faculty hold alert, as parents:Feel powerless as a parent when it comes to school safety? These practical tips will give you peace of mind, while making you a valuable partner in the process.

  1. DON’T go to the school to pick up your student. Your student will be stuck in class, and you’ll be clogging access for paramedics if the hold is due to a medical emergency.
  2. DON’T call the school to find out what’s going on. The district will keep us up-to-date via the parent portal with the latest, most accurate information. Calling the school will tie up the phone lines (and school employees) when both are needed for more important matters.
  3. DON’T engage in rumors. Especially not on social media. It’s critical to verify information before sharing it. Spreading false information just makes things worse for everyone.

No, we can’t control every aspect of school safety for our children when they leave home and go to school each morning. But these tips can go a long way toward giving you some peace of mind, and making your family partners with school officials in ensuring a safe learning environment for all children.

Feel powerless as a parent when it comes to school safety? These practical tips will give you peace of mind, while making you a valuable partner in the process.

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70 thoughts on “School Safety Tips for Parents”

  1. These are all such great tips. As parents, we focus a lot of effort on making sure our kids are practicing safe habits at school that we often forget there are things we can be doing too!

  2. These are all great ideas. I feel like it would be tough to change things if there is not a lot of good security in place. Our district recently spent quite a bit of money building a secure lobby that they buzz you into, and I assume the windows are bulletproof. As the kids get older, it is harder to be involved in volunteering. We have very few, if any, opportunities to go to the classroom.

  3. Such an important topic, sadly. My grandkidsโ€™ schools are very secure and have strict procedures. I can only hope it enough! Your post is very thorough. Iโ€™ll pass on to my son.

    1. It is so sad that we have came to having to teach children what to do in a school shooting. You have some really great ideas for safety.

      One of the first school shootings in the 90โ€™s happened right here in my city. The boys were juveniles and both have been released since turning 18.

      We have homeschooled now for Almost 18 years.

  4. Our school requires you to buzz in, but they don’t scan licenses or anything like that. It’s really sad that we need all the security, but I see why it’s necessary.

  5. Pingback: Safety Tips For Your Next Kids' Party - Super Mom Hacks

  6. Pingback: Wandering Wednesday #27 – CONFESSIONS of Parenting

    1. *absolutely* – that “trust your gut” was one of the biggest take-home’s for me from the workshop I attended!

  7. I love this article and it brings so many things to my attention that I have not even thought of!! It is so scary these days and I have to admit, even though it says not to go to the school… I don’t know if I could just stay home/work and wait….

    1. I totally agree with that instinct, Whitney – the way they explained it to us at the meeting I attended, though, was that this would really make things HARDER for the school officials to keep all our kids safe. If they needed to have access for first responders, then parents clogging the roads and parking lots could mean the difference between life and death for someone on the inside…so that made me realize how important it would be to fight that urge.

  8. It’s sad that we are not safe anywhere, but it’s so important to know about these school safety measures, it can really help our kids. I’ll definitely share this post with my friends who have small children.

  9. How times change! I don’t remember any of these from when I was a kid, although that was a while ago! It is terrifying to think that these are the times we live in. I’m glad schools are taking safety measure for our kids, nothing is too much for our little ones!

  10. I never even knew some of these things, but with two boys in school I really need to be more aware. The shooting happened in FL where I live and I would like to def ask some of these questions to my sons schools.

    1. Then this really hits home to you, Nikki. That’s how I felt with Sandy Hook – my mama knows families who live in Newtown. Glad you found it helpful (even if I wish we didn’t need to think about these things…)

  11. With everything going on with the schools today this was much needed. Our local schools have upped their safety procedures too.

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      Thanks, Kristyn! I appreciate your passing the word along; with any luck, maybe things will be better by the time you DO have to worry about these things?

  12. Tereka McCollum

    So informative. The times have come where things like this means life or death. Mental Health is a big part o it but I also think bullying is too. So many things and just the common care of children go unnoticed until it’s too late.

    1. So glad you found it all useful, Tereka. Helping to combat bullying, and the mental health challenges/insecurities that are often behind it, will do so much to help this whole situation…

  13. Great ideas for helping us all have a little more peace of mind. It is smart to know these things before an emergency happens – allows us to know how to respond in a more reasonable way.

    Thanks for sharing on #WanderingWednesday with Choosing Wisdom! ?

  14. I love the list of questions you included for the school/school district! I’ve also prioritized developing healthy communication with my kids – I love that you included the need to teach them to trust their gut instincts. This is something I’ve been writing about as well. It’s essential not just for safety at school, but for lifelong safety in all aspects of life.

    1. Amen to that, Ris! I was so grateful to hear the district already had these things in place (even though nothing they said that night surprised me), and was teaching our kids to trust their instincts ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. I’m really glad you touched on mental health as a good way to keep your kids safe. It’s often overlooked and can really start to fester within a kid’s heart, so making sure they’re doing okay is super important!

  16. Had not heard of waituntil8th but that is a great idea! Have a 10yo who would love a phone but am hoping to hold off as long as reasonable!

  17. Your list of checkins are fantastic. It’s so unfortunate that school has become such an unsafe place for our children. Community is so important to stick together and do whatever we can do to make our world a better place. Thanks for sharing this great insight!

  18. Sadly, I think there has been enough shootings that more people are getting more involved. My kids schools do lock down drills but they do not have locked door for entry. They have a guard and all visitor’s do need have an ID to checkin. I hope even with these measures in place that the school, community and parents are still actively looking to see what else we can do.

  19. It’s terrifying to think that we need to resort to these sorts of things now. When I was in school, we never did drills like this. It wasn’t until the end of high school we started practicing lockdowns. Makes me worry what things will be like when I have a child.

    1. Wow, that’s surreal for ME to think about, Candace, since we had NONE of this when I was little. I remember how shocked I was my senior year of college (albeit a lot later than many other schools) when they put 24/7 locks on our dormitories! Times change, I guess – the important thing is that our schools also change, to adapt to the new realities.

  20. My son will be starting kinder next year and this is so great to read. My mom and sister both teach high school, and Iโ€™ve had that lovely yellow badge any time I went there to visit.

    1. So you know all about those bright yellow badges, eh? Congrats to your district for having a really good head start on these safety precautions, by the sounds! Assuming your son is in the same district as where your mom/sis teach, sounds as if he will be in good hands next year!

  21. I just wrote a blog on this too. Did you know all the shooters are boys of fatherless homes except 2 kids. Fathers need to step up and moms need to think about what man they choose in the first place. We have a break down of our families and our values.

    1. Haha, our posts crossed paths in the cybersphere, Julie – I came across yours just as you came across mine, and appreciated your insights as well!

  22. We homeschool but posts like this are very important. My heart goes out to the teachers and parents and students of public schools. There is so much they have to deal with. Thanks for the post. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks so much for your response as a homeschool parent, Jillian! I was thinking of homeschool families as I wrote this, and wondering how they would read it – but I think a lot of the emotional health tips I’m passing along here, from our district’s workshop last week, apply to ALL kids, not just those who leave home to go to school.

  23. I would add in the communication with your kids to encourage them to talk about the other kids in their classes or activities, not in a gossipy way, but in a friendly and concerned way. Has anyone had something good or bad happen to them? What can we do to celebrate or console them? Why do you like hanging out with some people and not others? It helps kids analyze their social situations and understand their own values. Parents might pick up on warning signs that kids don’t yet understand, and open lines of communication early on will encourage kids to talk to their parents if they see or hear something they find frightening or uncomfortable.

    1. SO true, Anne, and so well-put! While schools can do a lot along these lines (our school has lots of anti-bullying and positive behavior programs in place), this is definitely something parents can nurture in their own kiddos too, starting even before they leave home for school.

    1. *Thanks* Holly – I was so impressed with these tips from our district’s parent workshop, I couldn’t NOT share them with others! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. So true – but I also think it’s important to be empowered and DO something – hence the goal of this post! ๐Ÿ™‚

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