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!
Very helpful post – lots of good information.
Our school has definitely buckled down on some safety issues since the Sandy Hook shooting. But you've raised some good questions that I'll be asking our administration. I think I know the plan but this is a good reminder that 'thinking” isn't good enough.
Thanks for sharing. And I promise that if our school has a safety meeting, I will be there!! 🙂
i'm going to suggest that my daughter's school have a safety meeting. great idea! thanks for sharing!
I work at a university, and this is something we have never discussed, and never drilled. We have a “crisis management team” but they deal with things after they happen. I don't know how to get this discussion started.
This is good information. My four year old attends a day care, and while I am not overly concerned about someone attacking his day care, the thought has crossed my mind. I do not know what they will do should someone barge in and start shooting. Idiot me didn't even think to ask until he had been there over a year what their policy was for fires or tornadoes. Fortunately, I am only a mile and a half from him should anything happen, but what about the other kids? I also have another concern. My four year old was recently diagnosed with sensory processing disorder. I was told that the fire drills scare him. Sometimes, not always, but mostly, he will freeze if something scares him, which is not always the best reaction (think fire or tornado drill or even a real emergency). I think all of this is something I need to discuss with the day care director today (we have had a lot of discussions since his diagnosis).
Thanks for the excellent information. You've totally inspired me to get more involved. I thought I knew some of what you've discussed but am embarrassed to say that I've never asked if my special needs son would be a part of a different group for evacuation or lockdown.
HA! Make sure you are 🙂
If you would like to start a BERT (building emergency response team) e- mail me at firebailey@Gmail.com and I can connect you to our team. They may be able to help
I know our fire dept does special tours for kids like your little one. so they won't be scared if they see a firefighter. check in with your local department. I bet t by eh have something similar. although then he might get obsessed with t by fire trucks 🙂
you are welcome. I never realized Boo would be taken elsewhere either
That is a good idea. The boys have toured the local fire station numerous times and are comfortable with firefighters — they have a cousin who is a firefighter at that station — but it is the loud noise and the flashing lights that I am worried about (the trucks are never on when we visit). A tornado siren was recently installed right next to the day care and after reading your post, I asked the director if Thomas were scared of the siren. She said that they only test it on Saturday (instead of the normal Wednesday at noon like surrounding cities), so I do not know how Thomas would react. My brother-in-law, who has a severely autistic son, suggest I take Thomas near a tornado siren when they are testing them to gauge his reaction and go from there. Might not hurt!
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