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How Is The Climate At Your Teen's School?

Every parent wants the school their teen attends to be safe. But how can you know this is true for your child's school? The U.S. Department of Education says the following characteristics are signs that a school is safe or unsafe.

A Safe School:

  • Has an environment that is orderly and purposeful.
  • Is free from threats of physical or psychological harm.
  • Displays sensitivity and respect for all.
  • Demonstrates clear behavioral expectations and consistent disciplinary policies.
  • Recognizes positive behavior.
  • Has proactive security measures and established response plans.
  • Is clean and regularly maintained, and has an attractive appearance.
  • Has a strong sense of community among students, staff and families.

When you see good things happening at your teen's school, show your appreciation to school personnel!

An Unsafe School:

  • Is poorly designed and doesn't use space wisely.
  • Suffers from overcrowding.
  • Uses firm disciplinary procedures but lacks caring.
  • Is insensitive to and poorly accommodates  multicultural factors regarding students.
  • Fosters student alienation.
  • Rejects at-risk students.
  • Creates student anger and resentment about school routines and demands for conformity.
  • Practices poor supervision.

When you believe your teen's school is unsafe, GET INVOLVED. Here are a few parenting tips for addressing school safety concerns:

  • Ask your teen and his or her friends if they feel unsafe at school and why.
  • Share your concerns with other parents.
  • Start a dialogue with teachers. Talk to them during parent-teacher conferences, and contact them whenever necessary about specific issues.
  • Read all school policies and become familiar with how your teen's teachers implement them.
  • Visit the school during a regular school day and observe what's happening between periods and in the hallways. You can go in to buy lunch tickets or sign up for an upcoming event.
  • When visiting, be sure you check in at the office. If you are not required to report to the office or if no one asks why you are in the building, a red flag should go up. If you can move around the school at will, so can anyone.
  • If you have concerns about safety issues, use common sense parenting and speak up. Talk to the principal, the counselor, the superintendent or the school board.

There is a well-known saying that every community gets the schools it deserves. Active, consistent parental involvement can lead to quality education; apathy can lead to mediocrity. While that is a simplified concept, the fact remains that when parents fail to be "watchdogs" of how their children's school is run, problems can develop and escalate out of control.

It is often a hassle to get involved. Considering the stakes, it is still worth the effort.