Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Safety at AE and New Haven Schools

On Monday, Dec 17, 2012, New Haven spokesperson, Rick LaPlante, released a statement regarding student safety at all their schools. An online brochure on Helping your Child to Cope was revealed to help parents talk to their children after a school emergency. This is a response to a deadly incident in Connecticut during which 26 children and teachers were killed by an intruder in an elementary school.

Every parent as they watch their child leave for school in morning assumes they will be safe. New Haven has various drills in place for fire, earthquake, and intruders. Fire laws actually state how many fire drills a school must have during the school year. In California fire drills are to be conducted and recorded at least once a month for elementary and intermediate and twice a year for, secondary. All students, staff, and volunteer parents are required to leave the facility during the drill. Each class has an assigned spot where they are required to stand with their teacher until the emergency is over.

Different states have different natural disaster drills depending on the types of natural disasters occurring in the state. Kansas and Texas have tornado drills. California has Drop or Duck and Cover drills for earthquakes with reminders not to be by a window. Students are taught to cover their neck and close their eyes. After the shaking subsides then everyone goes outside in an orderly fashion. In California these are twice a year. In some schools there is an earthquake emergency supply of water in each room. 

A Code Red is initiated over the PA system when there is a possibility of violence on the campus. This is a Lock Down. Teachers lock the doors. No one is allowed in or out until given the all clear signal. In a dangerous situation sometimes students are locked down for a very long time. Teachers keep students away from windows and sometimes cover the windows. Specific staff members are assigned to check the bathrooms and bring everyone inside. I can remember a student who had to urinate, but there was no bathroom available. So the teacher found a private space and the child went in the waste paper basket. None of the other students even noticed.

During a non emergency situation, students sometimes need to go to the bathroom. This can also be a safety hazard as during class time, bathrooms are sometimes unsupervised. As a precaution teachers usually send young children two at a time to use the bathroom. The safety hazard can actually be an older student not necessarily an adult.

For all these situations, teachers have an emergency back pack with first aide supplies and Emergency cards for each child. Only parents, guardians, or adults listed on the emergency card are allowed to pick up their students. Parents should always be sure their emergency card is up to date.

Principals and staff are looking at ways to improve school safety. Some schools have safety gates on the fences surrounding the school. New Haven is in the process of adding more safety gates as soon as possible. Some schools have volunteer or visitor badges which indicate the individual checked in at the front office. Alvarado has a visitor sign in sheet, but I believe not badges. Some schools require the door to each classroom is locked after students are inside except during passing time. This seems like prison to me but maybe in some neighborhoods a necessity. At elementary schools there are so many resource personnel, parent volunteers, and even school board members visiting classrooms, this may affect the ability of schools to function well. Doors should be able to be locked from the inside with a key or code. At this time this is not possible for Alvarado. If a Code Red signal is given, the teacher has to go outside to lock the door. Parents should attend the school site council meetings to voice their concerns.

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