In the months since the tragedy in Abu Dhabi, involving a student dying on the school bus, policy makers have been very active in finding ways to ensure that such a tragedy does not reoccur. The law has also come down very hard on those who were identified as responsible, handing down significant jail terms and very hefty fines. This incident resulted in a stringent review of the school’s policies and overall academic performance, which has subsequently resulted in a declaration for the school to be closed at the end of this school year. This tragedy has shown that lapses in safety measures can have very tragic results. But does it have to take a tragedy to remind us as administrators of what our responsibilities are?
Most principals and school administrators would agree wholeheartedly, that when it comes to students’ safety in their schools, the buck stops with them. Principals wear a lot of hats in schools; instructional leader, coach, disciplinarian, mediator and sometimes even class teacher but their first priority should be keeping the students safe. Sometimes, in an attempt to juggle all the responsibilities, some principals can unintentionally allow student safety measures to slip.
This article aims to remind us, as administrators of a few things that we have to do on a very regular basis in our schools to ensure that they are as safe as possible. In order to foster a safe, orderly, warm and inviting environment in schools, we must be able to provide interventions and support for students, staff and families. We also need to draw upon the collective resources of the entire learning community and external agencies such as the police.
Some key questions to ask include:
- When was the last time you reviewed the safety policies in your school?
- Do you have an active health and safety committee?
- How prepared are you and your school community in the case of an emergency?
- Most importantly, have your safety procedures been clearly communicated to staff, students and parents?
Here are a few points to keep in mind when it comes to school safety:
- Every school needs to have clear and communicated procedures on managing student supervision especially on the school bus commute to and from school, during lunch and play time and in the school’s corridors in between classes.
- There should be clear guidelines on visitors to schools, after school collection of students and student privacy.
- Take time to review procedures for excursions and activities outside of school, look at your lab safety rules.
- Although this is not something mentioned a lot in this part of the world, it would not hurt to put measures in place to address inappropriate alcohol consumption and the misuse of drugs.
- There should be systems and procedures in place to protect students against bullying, abuse and assaults.
This regions’ educators, including principals, teachers, counsellors and psychologists are deeply committed professionals, who work tirelessly to address the safety, social, emotional and cognitive needs of students each day. Sometimes all we need is a reminder to keep our schools’ safety measures current.
By Leisa Simapili