Parents: do you know how to handle safety concerns about someone in your child’s school? Perhaps, it’s a classmate or one of your child’s friends. Maybe it’s someone your child has mentioned as a bully or a disruptive student in the school. What if your child expresses concerns about an adult who works or volunteers at the school?
Rest assured: there are some things you can do. Here are some tips that other parents have found to be helpful as they’ve navigated these troubled waters.
How to handle safety concerns about someone in your child’s school
- Trust your intuition. If you believe someone’s words or behavior warrant further investigation and possible action, report those concerns to an administrator at once. Intuition is not some mystical sense. It is our subconscious picking up peripheral clues while we are focused on other things.
- If you are concerned that violence could be imminent, contact law enforcement immediately. If it does not appear that violence is imminent but you have concerns about someone being on a pathway to violence, report your concerns to the school principal. You may have to move up the chain of command until someone takes action, which could require taking your concerns to the school resource officer, director of student services or superintendent. Understand, though, that much of what needs to be done by school staff to address the issue is behind-the-scenses, and cannot be shared with you.
- Document dates and content of any reports you make, and any responses or conversations you have with school personnel regarding your concerns.
- Show an interest in wanting to be part of the solution. Let the school staff with whom you speak know that you are not trying to create upheaval or place blame; you simply want to do all you can to be certain the school is safe for students, staff and families.
- Do your research. Read about the warning signs of violence from a reputable source such as this list, created through a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice. If you find it challenging to get school staff to understand the seriousness of your concerns or you start to doubt your own perceptions, pick up the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker for reinforcement. This book will help you decipher and understand your sense that something isn’t right, giving you the strength you need to press on.
- Don’t give up! Stay with it until you are confident that your concerns are being adequately addressed. You will be rewarded with a sense of relief and your community will be safer because of your tenacity.