After the tragedy in New Town, CT, many of the parents in our school (and I am sure yours) worried about their children’s safety in a new way. Last night our PTA held a special meeting with our town’s safety officers. I have to say, I am beyond impressed. And that is knowing that I have an in at the fire department.
I never talked about the shootings with Allie. She came home from school and told me that the teacher had told them a bad man had broken into the school and tried to hurt the children. But not to worry because their school would be safe (exactly how she could promise that is beyond me). Allie told her classmates not to worry, that she knew the fire fighters and they would come and save them. Tall order for Daddy, but he is up to the task.
She also said that doing the lock down drill wasn’t scary. It is like a fire drill. A fire probably isn’t going to happen but kids need to know what to do so they aren’t scared. (Out of the mouths of babes, right?)
Last night was interesting for many reasons. The first, most irritating was that for all the brouhaha on the PTA Facebook page and e-mails from parents questioning if our school was safe enough only 15 people showed up. Come on people. If you are that concerned about your kids show up for the meeting (Yes, I have a snarky side).
Another interesting factoid was that our police, fire and school departments have been ‘drilling’ for different types of scenarios for over six years. That we parents just didn’t know what was involved. Until CT and we decided we wanted something done. Their response was an affirmative. Not only must something be done but they are training all the time to ensure the safety of our children. Things go on at school that we just do not realized.
But here is the thing. With all the training and drills for the children. Kids still don’t know what to do. A question arose from a parent about what would happen if a child was in the bathroom during a lockdown. The answer: the child would leave the bathroom (or hallway) and go to the nearest classroom. From there they would follow the teacher’s direction. So, of course I asked Allie if she knew what to do. Her answer: Well, first I would “finish” (that girl cracks me up she is so literal) and then I would hide under the stall.
So the kids do not always know. Or they are told but forget. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Allie forgets what happened at 10am this morning if she is asked at tomorrow at the same time. As parents it is our job to find out what the procedures are and reinforce them at home. Our safety team (yes, we have a team) told the PTA the most important thing we could do to help them, is after a drill to talk to our kids and provide feedback on what worked, what was scary/confusing, did the teachers act like it was a joke or important.
As I said, I didn’t have “the talk” with Allie about New Town. But that doesn’t mean we don’t talk about safety. And now I know how to direct the conversation.
Boo, is another story. We were told at her school that children with special needs (be it autism, undiagnosed, CP or mobility issue) were taken to another location. This was in deference to the fact that kids with autism, for example, if placed in a high stress situation with a lot of excitable/scared kids are more likely to shut down, elope or react in a way that is harmful to themselves or others. Since Boo spends half her day in an integrated preschool and half in the special needs program, I asked her teacher what would happen if she was in preschool. Would she be transferred with the preschoolers or go with the specials? The teacher didn’t know. She ‘assumed’ that Boo would stay with the preschool. But she would find out, for sure. Personally I am not too worried. Because Daddy would be responding with the fire truck and Boo has an aide that not allowed to leave her side. But what about the other parents who might not know that their child will be moved across town for their safety?
This is a long blog post. And I hope you are still reading because this is important. I urge you to get involved either with your PTA or safety team. Do you not have a safety team (EMS, police, teachers, school nurses)? If you need info, e-mail me and I can put you into contact with our EMS officer.
But here is what else you can do:
Find out where you child is going to be at in the event of an evacuation (in New Town it was a fate that the fire station was next door).
Find out what the procedures are, and ask your child if they know as part of a conversation not an alarming quiz.
After a drill, send feed back to your PTA or school principal. Let them know how your child did. I promise they want to know.
If you have a child with special needs, find out exactly what training has been taken (do they practice lifting wheelchairs down stairs with a child—not an adult) in them?
See if you can join the team or what you can do to help in an emergency situation. Do they need people to help keep track of kids, reunite them with their families, etc…?
And lastly, if your PTA hosts a safety meeting make sure you go. Be as involved with your child’s safety as you are their soccer practice (I warned you I was snarky).
It is does take a village to keep your child safe. So be an active member!