Back To School-Safety and Bullying
Here we are again at that time of year; the summer is over and school is back in session. For kids, the time went by too fast and for some parents, the time didn’t go by fast enough!
For some, going back to school is exciting and normal. For others it is not so exciting and for first timers it can be very scary. Whichever applies to your child, it is very important to stay involved in their school experience, for both your benefit and theirs. Many of the problems that face students go unresolved or get worse due to lack of parental involvement. Keeping an open line of communication with school staff and students is imperative.
Sean Webb, Assistant Principal at La Quinta High School said that one of the biggest problems nationwide that schools are having is a lack of parental involvement. Additionally, Webb said that even though a student is doing well in school, i.e. good grades, it is important to recognize if there are any changes in a student. For example, if a student is losing weight, has the appearance of being t tired frequently or change in clothing and/or hairstyle, there is the possibility that there could be something going on in that students life that has not been made aware of to their parents or school staff.
If as a parent, one recognizes such changes and/or changes in behavior and any attempt to communicate with that student fails, it is highly suggested that it be brought to the attention of the appropriate school staff in an effort to further monitor that student. Additionally, school staff may be able to better communicate and assist that student if in fact there is a problem. Even if the parent is successful in communicating with their child and a problem exists, it is highly recommended that school staff be advised of the problem so that they can monitor and take the appropriate measures in order to help that student. Keep in mind, the safety of all students is the top priority of all schools.
Another issue that Webb addressed was the use of social media websites and how they have contributed to an increase in cyber bullying. Webb said that the school still sees bullying in the traditional format as we remember; calling names and fighting however; what is happening now is that the incident usually starts at school and later explodes on social media sites. Webb used the example of a popular girl who doesn’t like another girl then posts a derogatory comment on Facebook or twitter . Within seconds, 50-100 or more other students are seeing it. Webb strongly urges parents to monitor their children’s social media activities; not just for bullying but in order to detect any other inappropriate behavior such as issues that relate to drugs and sexually explicit content. Surprisingly and unfortunately, Webb said that “sexting” is more common among middle school students! Does this open anyone’s eyes?
Jeff Kaye, Director of Security and Safety Services for the Desert Sands Unified School District has implemented an extensive Emergency Operations Plan district wide. The district is equipped to handle virtually any type of emergency through the use of an impressive command center that is linked with all local emergency services. In the event of an incident, all parents will be notified via mass notification. Kaye advises parents that in the event of an incident, do not come to the school until advised to do so as, depending on the incident, students will not be released. If not instructed to do so, parents who arrive will only add to the problem and in many cases will be turned away by first responders. It is understandable to be worried however; no matter how difficult it is, let the authorities do their job. This is also the general policy of schools nationwide. The students safety is their first priority.
A startling piece of information that Kaye provided was that in his casual conversations with middle school kids, they have told him that drugs are easier to come by than alcohol. Here again parents, get involved!
With regards to our younger students, Maryalice Owings, principle of Lyndon B. Johnson elementary school in Indio stresses that parents have patience as this may be the child’s first separation. Owings said that parents need to give their children time to adjust to their classrooms and routine and recommends having a routine at home to help them adjust i.e. have a place for their backpack, have their clothes out and their lunch made the night before. The purpose behind this is to reinforce having a routine which in turn relieves anxiety.
Another important issue that Owings presented is that some children may have had an unfortunate separation from a parent or loved one prior to returning to school from summer break such as a death or parent who goes to jail. It is essential that the child is made aware that the parent or guardian who is caring for the child is coming back for them when school is over. This kind of a loss can have a tremendous effect on a child and Owings strongly advises that parents let the school staff know so that they can better assist the child.
Owings further advises that if a child has been bullied, report it immediately. Additionally, instruct children to report the incident to school staff as soon as it occurs. By doing so will allow the school to address the issue right away so that corrective action can be taken before it progresses.
We as parents need to be thoroughly involved in our children’s educational experiences. It is also very important to know the school’s emergency procedures and other policies. In addition, all of the contributors advise that there are anti-bullying polices in place and that there will be zero tolerance for it. Keep in mind parents, we are legally responsible for the actions of our children, both criminally and civilly.
In an effort to involve middle school concerns, John Glen and Indio middle schools were consulted however; neither chose to participate.
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