School is not home! When your children are out of the house in the outside world they must remember at all times to use common sense street smarts. Teach them to be aware of their surroundings: to always keep one eye on the people and cars around them; to stay alert and aware. If your child is bullied, robbed, assaulted, abused, or touched in a way that he/she doesn't feel is right, make sure he/she knows to immediately report this to you, a teacher,or a trusted adult. Children need to know that adults can help, but only if they're asked to.
The daily routine of going to school and coming back takes about one-third of each day. Since your children are spending such a great deal of time out of your house, it's a good idea to be aware of some of the potential dangers out there. We don't place very much importance on our routines. We don't think about them once they are established. This is a big mistake, because anyone who can familiarize him or herself with your routines can know your vulnerabilities.
Your child should never walk through anyone's backyard, even if you know whose home it is. Tell children never to walk down empty side streets or alleyways. There have been many cases of children being kidnapped or abused, last seen walking to or from school. If children do not pay attention to their surroundings, many things can go wrong. Children should follow these instructions: When walking, stay away from the side of the road, always use a sidewalk and walk facing the on-coming traffic. This way you can see the people and cars coming towards you. If you are riding your bike, don't take short-cuts, and stay in a group. Watch out for potholes, broken glass, or other potentially dangerous objects that could cause you to injure yourself. If you're hurt you become vulnerable.
The following walk-through ill help you and your children rehearse what to do to be safe going to and from school.
WALK THROUGH ON A ONE DAY SECURITY EXPERIENCE
- Have books and lunch together in one bag.
- Is your bag closed? Is your personal ID in there, so you can identify it if it becomes mixed up with someone else's?
- Do you have change (at least 2 quarters) for an emergency phone call?
- Are your sneakers securely laced? Are the laces in good condition? It is very difficult to run with broken shoelaces or unlaced shoes.
- Memorize your home telephone number and your father's and mother's office numbers.
- Learn the location of the police station, fire station, and other locations such as a hospital, town hall or library. If running away from a stranger, you would have the advantage if you knew these locations.
- Maintain a distance of at least 10 feet from adults you don't know.
- If an adult calls you and asks that you go to them, do not get closer than 10 feet from them!
- If an adult attempts to grab you, scream out "THIS IS NOT MY FATHER/MOTHER!" as loud as you can and fight to get yourself released.
- If an adult says, "Come with me, I am a policeman," remember to stand at least10 feet away and tell them to come back in a police uniform and a police car. Always remember that the police, your parents, your school teachers and other authority figures want you to act this way.
- Never leave school with a stranger.
- Do not hitchhike to or from school.
- Always report all crimes to the main office of school.
- Keep all your lockers locked. Do not give your combination to anyone.
- Never take a lot of cash or valuables to school.
- Make sure your parents know when you leave school
Whether you're the parent driving the carpool or some other parent picks up your children, the following precautions will keep everyone safe. Be sure all children in the carpool are introduced to all parents who may be driving, so that they feel secure going with that person.
Teach children to always have respect for the parents and other children in the carpool. They should be ready at the specified time so as not to keep the others waiting. This will ensure that everyone arrives on time and in good spirits. Children should carry the numbers of the parents who are driving them. That way, they can call to notify the parents if they will be late, preventing needless waiting and worrying. When your children leave the house, teach them to make sure that all windows and doors are securely locked and to turn off or unplug all appliances, TV, stereo, and other items they had been using. For the parents in the carpool, there are several ways to ensure everyone's safety in and around your car. Once inside the car, lock all the doors and roll the windows up, and don't forget everyone's seat belt. Be sure to fuel your car the night before so your gas tank is at least half full.
ALL CARS SHOULD BE EQUIPPED WITH THESE SAFETY ITEMS:
- Spare tire and tire changing tools including a jack and tire-iron
- Fire extinguisher
- First aid kit
- White flag
- Blanket (in case you get stuck in the cold)
- Additional repair tools (depending on your ability)
If for some reason you have car trouble, or you break down on the way to school, there are steps you should follow. First, pull off the road away from traffic. Raise the hood of your car, and tie a white flag on your antenna. Then get back into your car, lock the doors and await police help. Keep the vehicle in "park" with the emergency brake on and the engine off. If another motorist offers help, roll your window down slightly and ask them to call emergency road service, the police or a family member. Do not exit the car if possible. If you must change a tire, first put the emergency brake on, then block the tires so that the car will not roll off the jack and cause bodily harm or damage to your car. Be sure not to lock your keys in the trunk or in the car.
When dropping off the children, be aware of your surroundings. Look for any strangers hanging out in the schoolyard, or watching from across the street, or from another car. Before you drive off, be certain that everyone has made it safely into the school. Remember you are responsible for their lives; you are the adult that they were with last. When dropping the children off at home, again wait to make sure they enter their homes safely. If you are dropping off a latchkey kid, try to drop him off last so you can actually get out of your car and enter the house with the child. This way you know that he is in a safe house. Once again, you are the last person who has seen that child.
If your children ride the bus to school, it's a good idea to arrive at the bus stop within 5 minutes of when the bus is due to arrive. A child alone out there, waiting for 20-30 minutes, is an easy target. Be as close to on time as possible. Be sure you and your child know the name of your driver, and that you can identify him/her. While on the bus, children should stay seated, and wear their seat belts. They should keep their book bags next to them, or on the floor in front of them, and be sure not to forget them. If your child's books get into someone else's hands, this personal stranger has the ability to become a security threat. He or she will have your home address. If your child needs to take the late bus home from school, ask the driver to drop him/her off as close to home as possible. When your child gets off the bus, he/she should be aware of the surroundings. If anyone had been following the bus, or if there are any unusual people hanging-out, instruct your child to refuse to get off the bus.
If at all possible drop off and pick up your child from the bus stop. This is especially applicable to grammar-school children. You don't want to let your child walk alone. There have been too many cases of children being abducted when only walking a block or two from their house. If your child does walk to or from the bus stop, know the bus schedule. Ask the school to set up a policy of calling parents whose children don't come to school. Also be sure to have your child call you when he/she gets home.
Bullying can happen anywhere and at anytime: at school, on the playground, at home, or on the streets. Bullies can be boys, as well as girls, be young or old, short or tall.
Teach your children how to respond to and deflect a bully's advances. Explain to them that what a bully does is make them feel at a disadvantage, in order to scare them into doing, or giving up something he/she doesn't want to do, or give up. Bullies sometimes want belongings, money or just want to coerce your child into doing/taking something to/from someone else. They use threats of violence to get their point across.
Bullies like to focus their attacks on the differences in people. Color, shape, size, money, or where you live. They make themselves feel better or superior by putting others down.
Tell your children to act confident when confronted by a bully, even if they are afraid. They should judge the situation, and leave or avoid it if necessary.
If your children tell others about the situation, the bully is likely to stop. Bullies work on the assumption that other kids will be afraid to tell on them. Above all, remind them that there's nothing wrong with them; it's the bullies who have the problem.
Excerpt from Streetwise Safety for Children by Michael DePasquale Jr.
DePasquale Mixed Martial Arts Academy
187 River Vale Road, River Vale, NJ • 201-666-7100