This year is different both of my children each attend two different schools, located miles apart. Previously my children attended either the same elementary school or schools right next door to each other. Both schools were located up the street less than a mile from our home. With both children so close to home during the day especially in the aftermath of 9/11 this has left me with a strong sense of security, however false I realize in reality that security might actually be as I am aware closeness does not facilitate safety.
The down side of living less than a mile from school is the bus service does not provide transportation for students. You must live outside one mile from the school and we are exactly 1 mile no matter which way you measure from our home to the front door of the school. It is Elementary dear Watson, as in Elementary School. This means that it is the parent’s responsibility to make sure their children arrive on time for class each day, regardless if you are married or single, divorced, employed or unemployed.
This year is different and my 13-year-old daughter rides the bus across town to her new school. The district changed schools and classes around, we now have an elementary school from k-4, a transition school for 5 and 6 graders, and finally a middle school for 7 and 8 grade students. There are so many safety issues involved with teens, bus stops and riding buses. She starts school at 0730 in the morning and leaves for the bus stop at 0700.
Although the bus stop is only three blocks from the house, she walks down alone. She carries her cell phone and calls to tell her mom she has arrived safely. We have a code word for her to use if she feels uncomfortable about someone hanging around the bus stop that should not be there. Right after the school year started approximately one mile across the highway a man in a white truck approached to middle school girls at their bus stop motioning for them to approach. Both girls ignored the man and boarded the bus when it arrived a short time later. The intentions of the man in the truck are unknown yet most likely sinister.
Kids need to remember adults do not ask kids for the time, directions, or help. Adults need to ask other adults for help. If someone approaches, kids should turn and run the opposite way the vehicle faces so the driver will have to take time to turn the vehicle around. Tell children to drop everything, including book bags and coats or other items that may slow them down when running if they are been pursued.
Often we mandate our children not to lose their books or supplies as they are expensive and if they lose them then “watch out because you will be in BIG trouble young man or young lady!” A child may fear punishment or retribution from mom or dad if he or she drops his or her school items and may not think to drop everything to run like the wind.
Children need to know if there are safe homes between the bus stop and home. My daughter calls me as soon as she gets off the bus to let me know she is on her way home. Then if she is not home in a couple of minutes, I know to check on her status. Make sure you know the exact route your child will take to and from the bus stop or school, that way if they do not show up at home you know exactly where to start looking.
Finally, make your child aware that no one will ever pick him or her up without prior notice and without the use of a pre-approved family code word. Pick one word that signals that mom or dad sent the person and only use the word in a true emergency. Then let your child know who can and who cannot pick them up at school. By planning hopefully, you will never need to put your plan into action. Yet it is best to be safe rather than unprepared.