School supplies other than highlighters and five-subject notebooks are flying off the shelves this year at major box stores- bulletproof backpacks. Popular retailers are reporting bulletproof backpack sales are up 200 to 300 percent after the devastating school-shooting in Parkland, Florida this past February, with parents buying out of fear and dire need to protect their children at any cost.
Parents Fear Sending Kids to School!
As back-to-school approaches, students and parents are beginning to panic about school safety. In a new national poll, parental distress and worry about sending their children to school are higher than they’ve been in the last 20 years. Purchasing bulletproof backpacks is one method being used to ease the concern about the possibility of an attack at school, but parents are looking for more than just last-resort protective devices.
LI School’s Stepping Up
In the aftermath of both the Florida and Texas shootings last school year, Long Island schools are actively reacting to parental fear by incorporating new safety measures before students return in the fall. Suffolk and Nassau County school officials have been working on heightening protections for their students with several new safety upgrades throughout their districts, some examples including:
- Installing more internal cameras (Montauk)
- Improving external cameras and increased security staff hours (Sayville)
- New identification badges for visitors (Harborfield’s district)
- RAVE App: Suffolk County educators now have access to the RAVE Panic Button app approved by Executive Steve Bellone, to help law enforcement and first responders act in the case of an active shooting situation or other emergencies. Staff is also able to communicate with other school officials on the premise through the app.
- Upgrading entryways (Syosset)
- Hiring armed guards within the district (Massapequa)
Officials in both counties are taking into account how previous shooters were able to enter the schools they attacked, making changes to prevent similar incidents from happening in their own buildings: infrastructure upgrades, single point of entry destinations in schools, metal detectors, and other safety measures concerning school grounds are all being explored. Long Island school officials are also working closely to strengthen relationships with local law enforcement, highly involving them when it comes to making building safety upgrades and updates to emergency action plans.
New York State Safety Policies
Though each school and district is required by law to establish emergency response and safety teams for their schools, the New York State Education Department does provide some guidance to create more consistency in school safety statewide.
The following five safety policies are recommended by the NYS Education Department to be used in every emergency response plan:
- Lockout: School buildings and grounds are secured due to the possible threat of an attack that is outside the school. Exterior windows should be locked, outdoor activities are canceled, but class continues as normal.
- Lockdown: School buildings and grounds are secure due to the possible threat of violence in or near the school. All students are cleared from hallways and locked in nearby rooms. Students go to safe areas in classrooms and remain hidden physically until law enforcement releases them. No communication is to be had through the door or room phones.
- Shelter-in-place: The school building is being used to shelter staff and students. All students are cleared from the hallways and moved into classrooms or designated areas where they can stay away from the windows.
- Hold-in-place: In this case, students and staff are to limit their movement while a short emergency is being dealt with. Typically, students should return to their classrooms.
- Evacuate: Students are moved to designated areas outside of the school.
These policies will differ from school to school, making it critical for parents and children to stay educated on specific policy expectations for their own district.
What Parents Can Do
It’s easy to feel terrified and helpless when your child is in an emergency situation while at school. To help parents feel prepared to react in the case of a school attack, HealthyChildren.org suggests the using the following preventative steps:
- Talk to your child: Stay informed about what is going on at school, concerns they have, or concerning gossip they have heard from other students that could indicate a possible safety threat.
- Know the drills: Be familiar with the school’s lockdown, lockout, shelter-in-place, hold-in-place, and evacuation procedures. Know where your child is expected to be during these plans.
- Talk to the school: Know the teachers so you are aware of who is protecting your child during an emergency. Get involved in safety review meetings to be aware of any challenges that could arise at the school.
- Review the policies with your kids: Talk to your kids to make sure they understand why their school performs safety drills and what they know about protecting themselves in the case of an attack. Don’t instill fear in your child but make sure they are educated about what to do if they see suspicious behaviors.
- Know the school’s communication plan: Find out before an emergency occurs how the school plans to notify parents so you are not panicking to get your hands on accurate information.
- Create a family emergency plan: In the case of a school emergency, make sure you and your child have your own emergency plan for communicating throughout the crisis and meeting up after the students are able to leave the building.
- Provide up-to-date contact information: Make sure your child’s school has the most current emergency contact information for you, secondary emergency contacts, and physicians to call if an injury occurs.
- Provide backup supplies: If your child has special needs or medication, supply the school with backup supplies in the case that your child cannot leave the school in an emergency.
Keep LI Kids Safe
Schools are supposed to be a safe environment for children to learn, yet officials and local law enforcement are being forced to adapt to a modern world full of harmful threats. Long Island officials have a good start, but more schools should be upgrading multiple areas of their buildings and safety policies to help prevent unnecessary and brutal school attacks from taking the lives of innocent students.
Siler & Ingber’s personal injury attorneys have been advocating for the safety of Long Island students for over 25 years. If your child has experienced a serious injury due to the negligent or violent acts of another, our winning team is here to fight for the resolution your child deserves. Contact us at 1-877-529-4343 for a free consultation to review your case options and see how our determined attorneys can seek justice for the crimes committed against your family.