The 2023-24 school year is here, so we contacted Nancy Buyle, School Safety and Student Assistance Consultant with Macomb County Intermediate School District, for some advice on important conversations with your kids that can prevent common injuries at school.
Positive, safe behavior
As parents, we all want our kids, no matter their age, to have appropriate behavior in school. And, it turns out that positive behavior has an impact on overall school safety, says Buyle.
Many schools in Macomb County use the Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS) as a way to promote safe and productive school environments. This is a systemic team approach where all adults and students in the building are working from common expectations for behavior.
Typically, a school will have at most five expectations for a positive school day experience.
“Parents can be part of this team by supporting the school’s expectations for behavior. By the way, this is likely similar to what parents would expect from their children’s behavior at home or in the neighborhood,” Buyle says.
A sample of these expectations is: Be Respectful, Be Responsible and Be Safe.
“Help your child by being explicit about what these expectations look like,” she suggests. “For instance, do not talk when the teacher is talking, use kind words when talking to peers, get to class on time and be prepared with your materials, keep your hands to yourself and resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner. These are just examples of ways to promote these expectations. Schools have a process for teaching students these things as well.”
Beyond the PBIS process, schools help to ensure students are safe by running safety drills on a regular basis, Buyle says. School law requires schools to run five fire drills, two severe weather drills and three school safety/security drills.
“When staff and students practice what is expected during everyday school as well as emergency situations, they are much more likely to be able to remain safe during a real event because they practice what to do several times year after year — this is called procedural memory,” Buyle explains.
The biggest school safety hazards
According to Buyle, some of the most common student injuries are caused by trips, slips and falls — either from kids not paying attention to their surroundings or horseplay amongst peers. Teachers at MISD and other Macomb County schools talk to kids about these hazards, but it’s important for parents to reinforce these messages at home, too.
“At the beginning of the school year, teachers will be doing safety checklists and just reminding their students how you walk down the hallway,” Buyle explains. “At home, parents should remind their child to watch where they walk and let them know that there could be uneven floor or cement and to be cautious going up the stairs.”
In addition, kids should know to keep their hands to themselves to prevent accidentally touching something sharp on the walls or on other surfaces. They should also be aware of any allergies or medical conditions they have, what they need to do if a medical emergency arises — and be reminded to never share food or other allergens with their classmates.
“Teach your kids to pay attention to their body and mind,” Buyle says.
Other things to be mindful of
When the school year returns, parents should also be reminding their children who walk to school or to their bus stop to be mindful of traffic.
“No matter how old your child is, know the bus schedule and watch your child as they walk to the bus,” Buyle says.
If you can’t watch the bus, remind your child not to engage in horseplay at the stop, to pay attention to the cars around them and to let you know if the bus doesn’t arrive.
Parents should know that buses in Macomb County are inspected three times a day and are equipped with GPS to ensure student safety.
Reporting suspicious activities
While uncommon, stranger danger and school gun violence are real threats that parents should be mindful of — and something that you should talk to your kids about in an age-appropriate way.
Students should know that most youth who plan an act of violence at school will tell someone about their plan before it is carried out and that they should tell a trusted adult if they hear threats of violence at their school.
They should also report any suspicious activity — or any instances where they don’t feel safe — to a trusted adult. For instance, if they see a suspicious car or person, they should notify an adult about their concern.
“They should know that they can always talk to an adult, and parents should help them to connect with at least one adult in their building,” Buyle explains. “They spend a lot of time in school, so having them connect with at least one adult in school is critical.”
Parents can also prevent school safety hazards by talking to their kids about their school day and taking an active role in what goes on in their lives while they’re at school.
“Working together to ensure that there’s a positive experience for our youth is critical,” Buyle adds. “We can’t force children to pay attention but if the parents are helping them see there’s a reason, kids are more likely to take it seriously as well.”