Tips on Child Safety in School Settings

By Mary Kay Cullinan

Everyone is concerned about creating a safe environment in schools. One of the most important things to do is to establish a set of guidelines regarding safety procedures. This set of rules helps to enforce limits for students, parents, and faculty. Before writing a set of guidelines, consult with the local diocese, the local police or law enforcement agency, and the local parish to ascertain what guidelines are currently available.

A safety plan addresses various emergency situations, such as the following:

  1. Lockdowns – Students are in danger if they go outside the building, or if someone gets into the building. Students are taken to a "safe place" within the building until all is clear and the danger has passed.
  2. Evacuations – Students are not safe within the confines of the building and must be moved to a "safe location" outside of the building where they remain until all is clear and the threat has passed.
  3. Tornadoes – Students are brought to the safest location on an inside wall where they kneel close to the ground and protect their heads.

Establish phrases or color codes to indicate to the faculty the nature of the danger and how best to move the children. This will avoid unnecessary alarm during a drill or a crisis situation. Make sure everyone knows these codes from maintenance workers to the nurse.

Establish exit routes, by grade, from the school f and make sure that these routes are highlighted and posted in each classroom. Practice each type of drill at least two times during the school year. Make sure that feedback is given about the drill.

File the crisis plans with local emergency personnel such as police, fire departments, and rescue squads. Police can also come to assess the school situation and make recommendations for evacuation procedures and other emergency situations. Staff and administration need to be a cohesive unit, especially in an emergency. Make sure the staff and administration has current emergency information such as numbers, emergency kits, and walkie-talkies. Have first aid kits, emergency kits, and walkie-talkies on hand in every classroom.

All faculty and administration play an important role in keeping the children in their care safe. Everyone should have something to do. Assign roles and make sure people know what they are.

Consider other safety issues in the school:

  • Develop a "system of hospitality" for the school. Is there a locked entrance where there is a camera or an intercom to "buzz in" a visitor, or other technology that can prohibit the entrance of strangers?
  • Do all classroom doors lock?
  • Are there any empty classrooms?
  • Are there any high bushes or trees around the school where people can hide?
  • Are there any unlit or hidden stairwells?

Knowing the answers to these questions is imperative for the establishment of an effective "Crisis Management Plan."