Schools play a special role in our society. For starters, they foster personal and intellectual growth. Education is the foundation for success, and dedicated teachers play a big part in the development of children worldwide. Schools and teachers also have another important role – looking out for the safety of students. When parents drop their kids off at school, they expect them to be safe and come home in one piece. No parent wants to receive a phone call from one of the school’s administrators advising their child suffered harm.School Safety Considerations
Principals, administrators, teachers, and school staff members undergo annual training to ensure they remain aware of ways in which kids can suffer harm on school grounds. Like any other area, awareness of risk is critical when it comes to taking steps to prevent future problems. Below are ways in which students can be in harm’s way at a school.
- School procedures – school districts, in addition to individual schools, should have plans in place in case of an emergency. The most common example is a fire drill. However, having a plan is not enough, which is why schools regularly conduct fire drills and train teachers how to execute the plan in case of a real-life emergency.
- Playground injuries – according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), over 200,000 children under the age of 14 are treated in emergency rooms each year. Nearly half of these injuries are significant fractures, concussions, and amputations. Many playground injuries are caused by falls, but kids can also get hurt while using playground equipment such as swings, ladders, and slides. Students may also suffer concussions or head trauma while playing sports during recess or PE class.
- Backpack safety – backpack safety is often overlooked. Textbooks are heavy, and students whose bodies are still developing may have trouble carrying them each day. Heavy backpacks can cause back pain, shoulder pain, and poor posture, which is one reason many school districts utilize technology such as digital textbooks. Regardless, it is important to select the right backpack. Parents should make sure backpacks come with features such as padded shoulder straps, multiple compartments (to properly distribute weight), and hip and chest belts.
- Lab accidents – most middle and high school students enjoy science classes, including biology and chemistry, because they can partake in lab experiments and dissections. Of course, safety comes first. If proper precautions are not followed, students can suffer chemical burns or cuts to their body. To prevent lab accidents, teachers should ensure equipment works as intended, wear proper safety gear (gloves, goggles, etc.), clearly explain the experiment to students, and show students how to access and use safety equipment like emergency eye wash, fire blankets, and exhaust hoods.
- Bullying and Violence – bullying is defined as “unwanted aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” This is a disturbing trend that has long-term consequences. Unfortunately, bullying can start at an early age and continue through high school. Examples of bullying include using threats, spreading rumors, physical attacks, and cyber-bullying. Bullying can lead to victims suffering from low self esteem or in extreme circumstances, suicide. To stop bullying, safety experts encourage teachers and students to stand up to this behavior and intervene on the victim’s behalf.
Parents and educators share common goals – educate children and keep them out of harm’s way. When it comes to safety, many school injuries can be prevented as long as staff members know what to look out for.
Below are additional resources for parents and teachers.
CDC - Safe Youth, Safe Schools
NSC - Back to School Safety Checklist
UFT - Lab safety rules for students
Reader's Digest - Your Child Is Nine Times More Likely to Suffer a School Injury Than School Violence