"What is a good age to begin talking to students about safety and situational awareness in our schools?” I often get asked that question by educators around the time they are reviewing their All Hazards Plan or a school shooting has made national news. Often I hear educators stating that these issues shouldn’t be discussed until students are older (4-5th grade) for fear that the students might be frightened or unable to understand the seriousness of the conversation. I tend to disagree with educators that hold that view. I find myself countering their statement with questions about when they began teaching their own children at home about safety and their surroundings. In fact, when I begin to mention things like teaching their children to cross the street, stranger danger or the importance of not touching a hot stove, educators often concede to the fact that they already began those conversations with their children. So why not start the conversation at school in the earlier grades?
It appears to me that the real issue isn’t should we talk to our younger students about safety but how we talk to them about safety in schools. Here are a few tips to help guide that conversation:
- Keep it simple and clearly explain a potential situation and how you want them to react. For example, “if someone tries to grab you and take you away, I want you to scream and yell and do whatever you need to so you can run away and find a group of people that can help you”
- Don’t try to Scare them. When I was a uniformed police officer back in 1980’s I hated to hear parent’s point to me and say to their child “if you don’t listen I’m going to tell him to lock you up!”. Much like telling a child the truth about getting burned on a hot stove you can be factual without being graphic or scary.
- Practice what you talked about. If you tell your students to escape to the rally point at the kick ball diamond if they need to evacuate the school, take a few minutes and escape with them. Yes, schools do fire drills, but there is a great deal of benefit to also doing these drills as individual classes so you can talk them through it without the disruption of a building wide event. It gives you a chance to hear their concerns and answer their questions while giving them more information than just “be quiet, single file and follow me
Learning to be safe and have an awareness of your surrounding can’t start too soon. Tragically many incidents of abduction, assault or molestation against children could be avoided if they had someone teach them some basic skills that could keep them when bad things happen. If you want to learn more about these concepts we would love to talk with you.
Until next time, John
Image courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news