Back to School Safety

Back to School Safety

The lazy days of summer have come to an end and it's time to prepare for the routine of the school year and after school activities. While many parents and children are looking forward to another year of learning and fun, back to school safety should be a priority for your family.

As millions of children head back to school, parents, teachers, and caregivers should look for and check hidden hazards in schools to help prevent injuries and deaths to children. Check your child's school, childcare facility and playground for hidden hazards.

Set a good example with your own actions - lock doors and windows and see who's there before opening the door.

Take time to listen carefully to your children's fears and feelings about people or places  that scare them or make them feel uneasy. Tell them to trust their instincts. If children  complain about being "bullied" …take their complaint seriously.

Playgrounds - Check surfaces around playground equipment. Playgrounds should have 12-inch depths of wood chips, mulch, sand or pea gravel, or safety-tested rubber or fiber mats to prevent head injury when a child falls. Each year, more than 200,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for playground-associated injuries. These injuries occur when a child falls from the equipment.

Drawstrings on Jackets and Sweatshirts - Remove drawstrings on hoods or around the neck. Cut drawstrings at the waist or bottom of jackets and sweatshirts to 3 inches. In the last 12 years, 22 children have died when drawstrings caught on school buses, playground equipment and other products.

Loops on Window Blind Cords - If the windows in your home, schools or facilities where your children spend time have blinds, be sure to cut the loop on two-corded horizontal blinds, and attach separate tassels to prevent entanglement and strangulation in window blind cords. Do not cut the loops on vertical blinds, continuous loop systems and drapery cords that use looped cords to function.. Instead, install a permanent tie-down device. Approximately one child a month dies from strangulation with window covering cords.

Bike Helmets - More and more kids ride their bikes to school. Make sure they always wear their helmet. All bike helmets manufactured or imported for sale in the U.S. are required to meet the new federal safety standards. Each year, more than 200 children are killed in bicycle-related incidents, and about 60 percent of these deaths involve a head injury. Helmet use can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent.

Soccer Goals - Anchor soccer goals into the ground to prevent them from tipping over and crushing a child. In the last 20 years approximately 24 deaths have been reported from soccer goal tip over.

Use This Checklist To Keep Your Children For This School Year:

  • Teach your child to memorize his/her home phone number and address, your work number, the number of another trusted adult … with area codes and how to use 911 for emergencies. Be sure kids know to call 9-1-1 or "O" in emergencies and how to use a public phone. Practice making emergency calls with a make-believe phone. Be sure your child has enough change or carries a phone calling card to make a phone call.
  •  EVERYONE who gets into a car must be properly restrained in the vehicle. This includes seat belts and child restraint systems. All children riding bikes must wear helmets. It's the law!
  • Plan and rehearse a walking route to school or the bus stop. Choose the most direct way with the fewest street crossings and use intersections with crossing guards. Test the route with your child. Tell him/her to stay away from parks, vacant lots, fields, and other places that are empty and don't have many people around.
  • Make sure children walk to and from school with others - for example a friend, neighbor, or sibling.
  • Whether walking, biking, or riding the bus to school, teach children to obey all traffic signals, signs, traffic officers, and safety patrols. Caution them to be extra careful in bad weather.
  • When car pooling, drop off and pick up children directly in front of the school. Do not leave until they have entered the school yard or building. Make sure all car pool parents follow this important safety procedure.
  • Teach your child never to talk to strangers or accept rides or gifts from strangers. A stranger is anyone you or your children don't know, don't know well or don't trust. Tell them never to accept rides or gifts from someone they and you don't know well.
  • Teach children to go to a store clerk, security guard, or police officer for help if lost in a mall or store or on the street.

Riding The Bus

For both children and parents, school bus safety is an important issue which is often overlooked. Everyone should know the traffic safety rules in their community. School bus transportation is safe. Yet, last year, approximately 26 students were killed and another 9,000 were injured in incidents involving school buses. More often than not, these deaths and injuries didn't occur in a crash. They occurred as students were entering and exiting the bus.

Remember these safety tips:

  • Get to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to pick up children.
  • Have a safe place to wait for your bus, away from traffic and the street.
  • Stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop and the driver signals you to enter.
  • When being dropped off, exit the bus and walk ten giant steps away from the bus.
  • Keep a safe distance between you and the bus. Remember that the bus driver can see you best when you are back away from the bus.
  • Use the handrail to enter and exit the bus.
  • Stay away from the bus until the driver gives his/her signal that it's okay to approach.
  • Never walk behind the bus.
  • Be aware of the street traffic around you. Drivers are required to follow certain rules of the road concerning school buses, however, not all do. Protect yourself and watch out!
  • Teach children to get in the habit of looking around them before they get on and off the bus, so they don't forget anything.
  • Teach children that it is important for the bus driver to know where they are at all times.
  • When boarding or getting off the bus, children should be aware of book bag straps, or any other drawstrings that might be hanging from their clothes. These can easily get caught in doors or railings.

Getting To School By Car

  • Most traffic crashes occur close to home.
  • Safety belts are the best form of protection passengers have in the event of a crash.They can lower risk of injury by 45%.
  • You are four times more likely to be seriously injured or killed if ejected from the vehicle in a crash.
  • Everyone needs to be buckled up properly. That means older kids in seat belts, younger kids in booster seats and little kids in child safety seats.

Walking and Biking to School

If your kids don't get to school by car or bus, they still need to be protected. There are many situations and dangers while walking to and from school. Here are a few basic safety tips to follow:

  • Obey all traffic signals and/or the crossing guard.
  • Never cross the street against a light, even if you don't see any traffic coming.
  • Walk your bike through intersections.
  • For children walking to school, plan a walking route to school or the bus stop. Choose the most direct way with the fewest street crossings. Use intersections with crossing guards. Rehearse the route with your child. Tell him/her to stay away from parks, vacant lots, fields and other places where there aren't many people around.
  • Teach children - whether walking, biking, or riding the bus to school - to obey all traffic signals, signs, traffic officers and safety patrols. Remind them to be extra careful in rainy, foggy or other inclement weather.
  • Make sure they walk to and from school with others …always have a buddy.
  • Wear reflective makes you more visible to street traffic.

Bicycle Riding

Bicycle riding is a popular activity for children. Obeying rules and regulations when riding bikes is critical to children's safety. Each year, more than half a million cyclists end up at the doctor's office or emergency room due to bike crashes. Teach children to:

  • Wear a helmet. Studies prove that wearing a bicycle helmet can reduce head injuries by up to 85%. Choose a helmet that fits snugly and comfortably. Parents should always wear a helmet to set a good example.
  • Look both ways. Many car-bicycle crashes occur at driveways and other intersections. Children should walk his/her bike across busy streets, at corners and crosswalks.
  • Wear light-colored and close-fitting clothes that make them more visible. By wearing these clothes they can avoid being caught in the bike's moving parts. They should never carry books in their hands while biking. Books and other loose items should be fixed to a properly installed carrying device or placed in a backpack.
  • Obey the rules of the road. This includes traffic signs, signals, and road markings.
  • Ride only in safe places such as parks, school grounds, bike trails, and sidewalks.
  • Riding is best where there is little traffic and there is adult supervision.
  • Be careful if bike riding at night. If an older child is permitted to ride at night, be sure that he/she wears reflective clothing or materials (especially on ankles, wrists, back, and helmet), he/she rides in areas that are familiar and on streets that are brightly lighted, and his/her bike has a headlight and front and rear reflectors.
  • Always lock a bicycle securely … even if it's just for a few minutes. U-locks secure both wheels and the frame to a stationary object (such as a post, fence, tree, or bike rack.) For extra security, add a chain or cable with a good padlock. Record the bike's serial number and keep it in a safe place together with the sales receipt and a photograph of the bike. Mark the bike with an engraver. This helps police in identifying and returning your stolen bike.

Are Your Children Ready To Be Home Alone?

Many families have both parents working. Other children come from single-parent families where that parent must work. Ask yourself if your children are ready to be alone after school.

  • Stay alone without being afraid?
  • Follow rules and instructions?
  • Be trusted to go straight home after school?
  • Easily use the telephone, locks, and kitchen appliances?
  • Handle unexpected situations without panicking?

Teach "Home Alone" Children

  • To always check in with you or a neighbor immediately after arriving home.
  • How to call 9-1-1, or your area's emergency number, or call the operator.
  • How to give directions to your home, in case of emergency.
  • Never to accept gifts or rides from people they don't know or don't know well.
  • How to use the door and window locks, and the alarm system if you have one.
  • To never let anyone into your home without asking your permission.
  • To never let a caller at the door or on the phone know that they're alone. Teach them to say "Mom can't come to the phone (or door) right now."
  • To always carry their house key with them in a safe place. Never leave it under a mat or on a ledge outside the house.
  • How to escape in case of fire. Rehearse scenarios so they know what to do and won't panic.
  • Not to go into an empty house or apartment if things don't look right- a broken window, a ripped screen, or opened door.
  • To let you know about anything that frightens them or makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Make sure your children are old enough and mature enough to care for themselves.
  • Basic safety rules.
  • Know where your kids are, what they're doing, and who they're with.
  • Check on state laws about the age at which children can be left at home alone.
  • Agree on rules for inviting friends over and for going to a friend's house when no adult is home.
  • Take time to listen carefully to children's fears and feelings about people or places that scare them or make them feel uneasy. Tell them to trust their instincts. Take complaints about bullies and other concerns seriously. Talk to your school administrators and/or pediatrician for advice and support.

Kids are naturally curious. Be sure to talk to them about the deadly consequences of guns, medicines, power tools, drugs, alcohol, cleaning products, and inhalants. Keep these items in a secure place out of sight and locked up.

  • Make sure your child checks in with you or a neighbor immediately after school.
  • Set up rules and procedures for locking doors and windows, answering the door or telephone. Be sure to rehearse these procedures.
  • Agree on rules for inviting friends over and for going to a friend's house when no adult is home.

What Would Your Child Do If...

  • He/she were lost at a shopping mall or at a large gathering such as a carnival?
  • Someone they knew wanted to play a game and keep it secret?
  • A friendly stranger offered him/her a ride home after school?

Kids are trusting by nature. With parents finding it difficult to teach children to balance trust with caution, parents should teach kids keeps them safe and how to handle dangerous situations.

At School And Play

  • Urge your children to walk and play with their friends. Tell them not to play or walk alone, and stay away from places that could be dangerous, such as vacant buildings, alleys, etc.
  • Work out safe routes to and from school, stores, and friends' houses. Walk the routes together and show them places they could go for help.
  • By teaching children to settle arguments with words, not fists you are creating safety and non-violence. Teach them to walk away when others are arguing. Let them know that teasing can hurt friends and make enemies - and even hurt them.
  • Urge kids to be alert. If they see something that doesn't seem right they should tell a trusted adult.
  • Check out daycare and after-school programs. Ask about certifications, staff qualifications, rules on parent permission for field trips, reputation in the community, parent participation, and policies on parent visits.
  • Check out the school's policies on absent children. Are parents called when a child is absent?


Bullying can be a serious problem for kids. It is one of the most minimized and persistent problems in our schools today. The sad thing is - it's a reality for all children, whether they're victims, witnesses, or they're the bullies.

Children are born into the world innocent - without defenses. Another child or an adult comes along who is a product of abuse, rage, or being a 'bully' victim and the cycle continues. Whether it's at school or at home, anyone who is bullied will very often feel depressed and have low self-esteem. And if you're a bully, you are more likely to be hostile and antisocial.

Bulling can cause serious problems which tend to be ignored by adults. Anyone can be the target of bullying. A typical victim is usually shy, sensitive, and perhaps anxious or insecure. Sometimes children are picked on for physical reasons such as being overweight or too short, having a disability, or belonging to a different race or religious faith.

About Bullies

Some bullies are outgoing, aggressive, active, and expressive. They use brute force or harass someone. Others can be more reserved and manipulative so they are not recognized as bullies.

If Your Child Is Being Bullied

Sometimes the effects of bullying aren't as obvious as a black eye. Other signs to look for include:

  • The sudden appearance of bruises, missing belongings, or the invention of mysterious illnesses or stomach aches to avoid going to school.
  • Your child may be embarrassed or feel weak by admitting he's the victim of a bully. To make it easier for your child to talk about it, consider asking some thoughtful questions.
  • Often a child will unexpectedly change routines to avoid a bully. Or you could ask about what happens before or after school or during recess. You might also try asking if there are any bullies in the neighborhood who have threatened to hurt any kids your child knows. This might make it easier for your child to talk about bullies because he won't necessarily have to talk about his own experiences. It might also help your child realize that he's not alone.

If you learn that your child is the victim of a bully, do not overreact. Remember that your child is the victim; you do not want to add to your child's burden with an angry or blaming response. Although it's understandable that hearing your child is being bullied would make you sad or upset, try not to let your child see that - he might interpret your sadness as disappointment in him.

Helping Your Child Stand Up To A Bully

  • First, listen to your child. Just talking about the problem and knowing that you care can be helpful and comforting. Your child is likely to feel vulnerable, so it's important that you let him/her know you're on his side and that you love him.
  • Talk to your child about why some people act like bullies. Remember that your child may feel guilty, that he is somehow to blame. Reassure your child that he did not cause the bullying. Explain that kids who bully are usually confused or unhappy.
  • How Your Child Can Handle A Hostile Confrontation With A Bully?
  • Getting angry or violent won't solve the problem …that's just what the bully wants. Responding with physical aggression can put your child at risk. Yet, obeying the bully is not a good way to handle the situation. Your child must regain his/her sense of dignity and recover his/her damaged self-esteem.
  • Empower your child to act first. Suggest that he/she look the bully in the eye and firmly say, "I don't like your teasing and I want you to stop right now." Your child should then walk away and ignore any further harassment from the bully. If your child fears physical harm, he/she should try to find a teacher or move toward friends who can provide comfort and support.
  • Bullies often target socially slow children. Urge your child to develop more friendships, join social organizations, clubs, or teams, and to invite other kids over after school from time to time.

In most cases, bullying won't require your intervention, but if you worry that your child could be harmed, it's important that you step in. That may mean walking to school with your child or talking to your child's teacher about the problem. Your child may be embarrassed, but his/her safety should be your primary concern.

Tell Your Child:

  • Coping with bullying can be difficult, but remember, they are not the problem - the bully is! They have a right to feel safe and secure.
  • If they are different in some way, be proud of it!
  • Spend time with their friends - bullies hardly ever pick on people if they're with others in a group.
  • They've probably already tried ignoring the bully, telling them to stop and walking away whenever the bullying starts. If someone is bullying them, they should always tell an adult they can trust. This isn't telling tales. They have a right to be safe and adults can do things to get the the bullying stopped. Even if they think they've solved the problem on their own, they should tell an adult anyway, in case it happens again. An adult they can trust might be you, a teacher, school principal, someone else from your family, or a friend's parent.
  • If they find it difficult to talk about being bullied, they might find it easier to write down what's been happening to them and give it to you or an adult they trust.

For more detailed information on Bullying click here

Protecting Your Child From Sexual Abuse

  • Tell children that if someone tries to touch them and do things that make them feel uncomfortable, saying NO to that person is okay and to tell you immediately
  • Encourage professional prevention programs in your schools and community
  • Close communication between you and your kids is essential. Let them know they can tell ot talk to you about anything.
  • Make a "NO SECRET" rule. Tell your child that secrets can be dangerous and no matter how bad it is, they must tell you.
  • Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult if they are hurt or scared. Your child should know about the parts of the body and sexuality.
  • Stress that children have a right to body privacy and self-ownership.
  • All children should be taught a sense of self worth and dignity.
  • Spend time with your children. Lonely and attention starved kids are easy targets to molesters.
  • Make it a priority to know your children's friends and their families.
  • Listen to your instincts. If a situation or person makes you uncomfortable, trust your feelings.
  • Teach your child to trust their feelings and listen to what your child tells you.
  • If you have questions about your child's sexual development, talk to your child's pediatrician, or a child psychologist or child psychiatrist. When seeking professional advice, ask whether or not the qualified professional has any training regarding child development and sexual abuse.

Sexually abused children and their families must seek immediate professional evaluation and treatment. Child and adolescent psychologists and psychiatrists can help abused children regain a sense of self-esteem, cope with guilt, and deal with the trauma.

For more detailed information on Sexual Abuse click here.

Talk To Your Child About Alcohol And Other Drugs

A big problem for kids is peer pressure which can include pressure to use alcohol and other drugs even in elementary grades. Parents must talk to their kids about this issue ... school programs aren't enough.

Here are some tips for raising drug-free children:

  • Listen to your child. Pay careful attention. If your child tells you something don't ignore it ... talk about it.
  • Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of drug use.
  • Help your child develop good self-esteem and develop strong values.
  • Talk about values such as honesty and responsibility with your child.
  • Teach your child ways to say no. Don't exaggerate about the effects of drugs.
  • Tell your child the difference between medicine and illegal drugs.
  • Set a good example. If you drink alcohol, be responsible. You are your child's role model and your child could copy your habits and attitudes.
  • Tell your child what behaviors and habits are legal for adults, but not for children. Don't use illegal drugs.
  • Help your child learn to deal with peer pressure.

Talk To Your Child About Guns

  • Help keep children safe from guns and other weapons.
  • Explain to kids that gun violence in the movies, on TV, and in video games is not real. These mediums don't show the pain and suffering gun violence causes. Tell your kids how guns hurt and kill people in real life.
  • Teach kids from preschoolers to teens, that guns and other weapons can hurt and kill. Urge your child to report any weapon they know about at school or in the neighborhood to a trusted adult. Tell them NEVER to touch the weapon for any reason.
  • Teach your child how to settle arguments without violence. Talk openly with them about their problems. Set a good example and show them how you handle anger and disagreements.
  • Support your school system in their efforts to keep guns, knives, and other weapons out of schools.
  • If you own handguns, rifles, or shotguns, make sure they are unloaded and securely stored in a locked area. Use trigger locks, gun cabinets with locks, and pistol lock boxes and keep ammunition locked up separately from weapons.

What To Do About Media Violence

  • America's kids are bombarded with violent media messages - from newspapers, books, magazines, billboards, television, movies, videos, video and computer games, and music. Because it is not real life, consequences of violent actions are not displayed, leaving kids to think violence is an acceptable way to deal with problems.
  • TV and movies have the biggest impact on your child.
  • Cartoons and commercials average 25 violent acts per hour. Babies as young as 14 months will imitate what they see people do on TV. Many kids choose media figures as their role models.
  • Violence in books, magazines, newspapers, movies, videos, songs, and computer and video games can also affect your children.
  • Much of your children's media consumption occurs outside of school. Establish a family rule there is no place for violence in your home. Monitor reading materials, TV and radio programs, games, and the Internet.
  • Watch TV with your children. Be aware of what and how much they are watching.
  • Limit your child's television viewing to two hours or less per day. Plan a weekly schedule of the programs you want to view together. Keep your TV off when your selected programs are not being viewed. Interpret programs for your child and explain what is real and what is not.
  • Have your children participate in at-home and non-violent recreational activities.

Additional Help For Your Kids

  • Create programs with schools, religious institutions, libraries, recreational and community centers, and local youth organizations to give children ages 10 and older a place to go and something to do after school - a "homework haven," with sports, crafts, classes and tutoring.
  • Ask your workplace to sponsor a safety class for employees' children. You can kick it off with a parent awareness/education breakfast or lunch.
  • Develop a homework hotline in your community for latchkey kids to call for help or just talk.
  • Start a block parent program in your community to offer children help in emergencies or frightening situations. For information on how to start a block parent program in your neighborhood contact

Internet Safety For Your Child

The Internet can be a fun and exciting place where your child can find learning tools and resources. Kids who have access to online services, in or outside the home, enjoy learning about a wide variety of topics, communicating with friends and family by e-mail, chatting with other computer users, and surfing the Web.

  • Although the Internet offers many positive things, there are times when Internet surfing can be dangerous. Educate your child about the dangers of the Internet and use parental Internet security programs to block inappropriate sites. Many of these products will allow you to control your children's access to certain areas on the Internet.
  • Set up a master account in your name and don't give your child the password. Many services allow you to create separate screen names for children, allowing you to block access to inappropriate areas.
  •  By placing your computer in an open area such as the family or living room, you can keep an eye on your child's Internet activities. Be very clear that if you cannot see what they are doing online, then they cannot do it.
  • Discuss with your child ways to handle certain situations ahead of time. Discuss what your child should do if someone sends them a message over the Internet that scares, threatens them, or makes them feel uncomfortable. If he/she sees threatening or obscene material on the Internet, report it to the sender's Internet service provider immediately.
  • Establish a clear set of rules and guidelines for computer use post them near the computer.
  • Make Internet surfing a family activity and get involved in your children's Internet activities.
  • Help your child find healthy, positive Web sites and bookmark them on the computer.
  • Teach your child to never give out his or her name,address, phone number, school name, his/her parent's or siblings name to anyone online.
  • Tell your child to never send a picture of themselves or another family member to anyone online without explicit parental permission.
  • Explain to your child that they must never arrange to meet anyone they meet on the computer face to face, or speak on the phone with them without your permission.
  • Explain to your child that they should never respond to messages that are obscene, threatening, or make them feel uncomfortable.
  • Tell your child that they must tell you or another trusted adult if they encounter anything on the Internet that makes them uncomfortable.
  • Tell your child to never enter an area that charges for services without your permission.
  • Educate your child that not all people online are who they seem to be.
  • Tell your child that these rules apply even when at school or at a friend's house.
  • Even with blocking software, it is possible that your child could come across something inappropriate. Talk to your kids about exploitation, pornography, hate literature, or excessive violence so that they know how to respond when they encounter such things both online and in the real world.

Keeping Children Safe … Your First Priority

It is important that children be aware of how to respond to potentially threatening situations involving strangers. Most parents tell their children not to talk to strangers, and aren't sure how else to protect them.

Warnings are not enough! Children don't understand that strangers can be people who act friendly and don't necessarily look scary or dangerous. Kids can be lulled into a false sense of security if a stranger hangs around, becoming familiar after a day or two. There are a number of basic safety rules kids can follow that will lessen their chance of being harmed. Share these rules with children.

  • It's easy for kids to get separated from their parents in public places. Tell your children if they do get separated, not to wander around looking you. They should go to a checkout counter or the security office and immediately tell the person in charge that they are lost and can't find their mom and dad.
  • Tell children to never get into a car or go anywhere with any person unless you have told them that it's okay to go with that person.
  • Teach your child that If someone follows them on foot or in a car, to stay away from that person. They should never go near the car or get inside it. They should run to a crowded, well-lit place and where they can get help.
  • Teach your children that under no circumstances should they go anywhere with a stranger - not even to help find a lost puppy, or if the stranger tells them that their mother or father is in trouble and that he or she will take them to their parents.
  • Teach your children and rehearse with them that If someone tries to take them somewhere, to quickly get away from him/her and yell: "This man (woman) is trying to take me away" or "This person is not my father (or mother)."
  • Kids should establish a 'buddy system" and never go anywhere alone.
  • Establish with your children to always ask for permission to leave the yard or play area, or to go into someone's home. They must let you know where they are; be back when they're expected.
  • NO adult should ask children to keep a special secret. Tell your children that if someone does tell them to keep a secret, to tell you or another adult they trust.
  • Tell your kids that if someone they or their family doesn't know well wants to take their picture of them to say "NO" and tell you or another trusted adult.
  • Teach children that no one should touch them in the parts of their body that are covered by their bathing suit, nor should they touch anyone else in those areas. A child's body is special and private.
  • Children have the right to say "NO" to someone who tries to take them somewhere, touches them, or makes them feel uncomfortable in any way. Rehearse various scenarios and teach them how to say and scream "NO."
  • When talking to your children, remember that each child develops differently, and what may be appropriate to say to one child may not be the case for another.
  • Listen, listen, listen!
  • Be there for your children at all times!


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