Questions to Ask Your Child’s School

Children in Georgia and around the country have been heading back to school this week. As a parent, you’ve been dealing with school clothes, pencils and paper, and calming first day anxieties, but have you thought about checking up on your child’s school?

In books like The Gift of Fear, Fear Less and Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane), renowned safety consultant Gavin de Becker provides a thorough examination of everything parents should seek to find out about their children’s’ schools. His points range from the obvious (i.e. ascertaining the school’s plans for fire safety) to things that we might normally not think about (i.e. what the school’s administration considers when hiring and disqualifying applicants for staff and support positions.) Also according to de Becker, the school should be willing and ready to answer your detailed list of questions. If they aren’t, he says, this could a.) indicate a problem or b.) with your help, give them the backup they need to ask for better resources from a school board or funders.

Here is just a very small sampling of the thorough and diverse questions de Becker advises parents to ask of their child’s school:

• Do you have a policy manual or teacher's handbook? May I have a copy or review it here? Is the safety of students the first item addressed in the policy or handbook? If not, why not?
• Are teachers and any other personnel (maintenance, support staff, etc.) screened and background checked?
• Is a nurse always on site? What is the nurse’s education or training?
• Can my child call me at anytime? May I visit my child anytime?
• How does the school address special situations such as custody disputes or kidnapping situations?
• Does the school keep statistics on acts of violence performed here? May I view them?
• If there is an emergency on the playground, how does the teacher summon help?
• What police station responds to this school?

More questions can be found on the Child Safety page at de Becker’s security consulting web site.

As you can see, these are all questions that would be vital to know in the event of an emergency, but that might not be at the top of your mind to ask in the middle of packing your child’s lunch and dealing with their ever-present social woes.

Are you a parent who thoroughly checks out your child’s school? Please comment on what steps you take, who you talk with, and any advice you can give parents who are investigating a new school.