One of the most difficult truths about being a parent is that you can’t always be around your child to protect and take care of him. So, when you drop your child off at school, you entrust his safety and care in the hands of teachers and the school staff.
While the onus is on schools to prevent unfortunate incidents from happening and provide a secure and nurturing ambience, parents also need to teach their children to protect themselves as best as they can. They have to make sure that the children aware of the possible dangers they may face at school without scaring them unduly.
Safety steps to be taken by school
Before you educate your child about the safety rules your child should follow, you must ensure that her school has adequate safety measures in place. Some of these are CCTV cameras in the campus, safe bus transport, proper medical facilities, proper monitoring of vulnerable areas like washrooms, efficient visitor management systems and background verification of teachers and staff hired by the school. In fact, one of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) guidelines for schools is that non-teaching staff such as bus drivers, conductors, peons, cleaning and other support staff be employed only from authorised agencies.
Parents must also find out whether the structure of the school building is safe and has proper provisions for fire safety. In addition, they should check if the school adheres to anti-bullying policy and adopts measures to protect children from all forms of abuse. The school staff should be made aware of any health concerns the child may have, including allergies and emotional issues.
What parents should teach children about safety in school
Following are some safety rules you should teach your child to follow at school:
- Memorise contact details: Ensure your child remembers his full name and address, parents’ name and the emergency phone numbers to reach out to, should the need arise. Also, make him memorise a back-up phone number to call, like that of a grandparent, uncle or aunt, who could help if the primary numbers aren't responding. Caution your child against sharing his contact details with anyone and information such as the school he attends, where he lives, and his age.
- Never wander outside school premises: Tell your child firmly that she should never leave the school premises unattended. For instance, children may get engrossed in play and wander outside the school compound to fetch a ball if the security at the gate is not alert. Make sure you tell her to ask a teacher or a staff for help, if she needs something from outside.
- Be wary of strangers: Your child should know who he can leave the school with. There have been cases where children were approached by strangers claiming that something had happened to their mother or father. Tell your child that if this happens, he should alert a teacher immediately instead of leaving the school with the stranger. Also, tell your child to never accept food from a stranger or anyone else.
- Know the school’s emergency response protocols: Train your child on how to respond to an emergency. Most schools have fire and earthquake drills, and emergency evacuation plans. Your child should know the plan thoroughly to avoid confusion and resultant panic.
- Never do anything he is uncomfortable with: Your child may be given a dare by friends to do something dangerous in school. Explain to him he should never do something that makes him feel uncomfortable or causes physical, mental or emotional harm. Teach him how to resist peer pressure.
- Don’t let anyone touch her without her consent: Teach your child the difference between safe and unsafe touch as soon as she can understand the concept. Explain to her that should anyone, other than her parents, touch her without her consent, she should report it immediately to a teacher or to you. In case she is hurt and needs to go to the school doctor, she should never go unattended. Also, ask her to refuse to follow anyone, be it a teacher, staff member or fellow student, to secluded areas in school like washrooms, deserted part of the school yard or an empty corridor/classroom. Instruct her to always stay in a group.
- Don’t tolerate bullying: Teach your child to stand up for himself and not succumb to bullying. If he can’t deal with the bully on his own, he should approach a person of authority. Also, teach him to respect his peers despite their differences, so he never becomes a bully himself.
- Follow basic rules of safety: Teach your child basic rules like to never play or experiment with fire or sharp objects without adult supervision. Also, ask her to be careful around loose electrical wires and never go to the swimming pool unattended. Educate her on basic road safety rules in case she has to walk home from the bus stop alone.
- Seek medical help if required: Your child should report to the medical room if he is not feeling well. Ask him to never ignore any signs of discomfort he might be feeling.
- Never keep any secrets from parents: Encourage your child to talk to you about anything that is upsetting or making her feel uncomfortable. Tell her that no topic is off limits and talking about issues helps in getting them resolved faster. Explain to her that she shouldn't keep secrets which disturb her mental peace or affect her emotionally or physically. However, if your child seems withdrawn or is not sleeping or eating properly, it might be a sign of distress. Talk to the school or seek expert help, if necessary.
While parents can’t be there in person to be make sure their children are safe and well-cared for in school, they can empower their children to be conscious of their safety and express themselves in a way so that they do not become victims.
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