Question: I just read some troubling news concerning the amount of “bullying” that goes on in schools across our nation. Do you see this as a growing concern in our schools and what can be done to ensure my child’s safety?
Answer: All children require a safe learning environment with controlled boundaries in order to grow, learn, and flourish. Especially with the awareness of more serious episodes, parents want assurance that their child is in a safe climate at school. As a parent, the most important role you can play is to listen and take their concerns seriously. Communicate clearly that their safety is a primary concern for you.
Unfortunately, we are seeing more aggressive behaviors than when we were in school. Learning, behavior, and emotional problems along with an ever-increasing failure to succeed in basic skills have become a major concern and frustration to parents, teachers, and administrators. School anxiety is another escalating problem experienced by too many school children today. These setbacks have contributed to the decline in school climate that provides security for the student. What is at the root of these growing concerns continues to be the topic of many educational seminars I now attend.
According to leading researchers and clinicians in the field of psychology, education, and medicine, it appears that the following characteristics are needed to ensure a safe and healthy school climate:
- A strong concerned administration with an open door policy that is in place
- The mission of the school clearly reflects practices in the school
- The children want to go to school
- Violence and bullies are not tolerated
- Strong optimism is present in the school
- Testing is not allowed to hold too much power!
- Small classes have been established
- Behavioral issues are handled respectfully and quickly
- Physical structures are in good repair and environmentally healthy
- There are high academic expectations for all
- Teachers appear to enjoy teaching and have a positive self-efficacy
- Parents and children are listened to and responded to with respect by all school personnel
There are three types of school safety; emotional, intellectual, and physical. An excellent school must contain all three. I often advise parents deciding on a school for their child to not only visit the classroom, but also the playground and lunchroom. Social behaviors of the children there can readily identify the safety climate of the school.
Your concern is justified but not hopeless. I am optimistic that because of increased awareness of both the parents and the school administrations, safe environments can be created. Peaceful children do not get that way accidentally. We have to work diligently and pray fervently for that result.