Young Students are Fast, Better Keep Track!

3 Simple Security Procedures that Every School Should Follow

Children and young students wander or run off effortlessly and are very easy to lose. There’s no mistaking that fact. They bolt off in a split second to go look at something they may have seen, dash away from parents or teachers in a playful mood, or are simply exhibiting defiance by not wanting to do what they are being asked and run in an opposite direction. Sometimes, perhaps they get tired and simply want to go sit or lay down somewhere quiet, fall asleep, and get missed in the noise and commotion of many peers. It happens. It happens frequently, unfortunately, that a young student’s whereabouts become unknown and it is frightening when this occurs. To help prevent this, basic security procedures for tracking the whereabouts of students are important to implement and follow at any school.

This past May, headlines were blasted with the story of the young boy, who climbed into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo. The outcome, sparked outrage and called to question “where were the parents?” A situation like this happened so quickly, it was difficult to prevent and was something that could happen to any parent, but shows how imperative, in an environment with children, it is to utilize safety procedures.

Another recent occurrence in Pennsylvania, left everyone questioning, “Where was the school?” When a young child, on his first day of Kindergarten, fell asleep on the bus ride and was subsequently locked on it, alone, in the parking lot for hours. He wasn’t discovered as missing until 4.5 hours later when he didn’t arrive home to his mom. His mother immediately called the school, who said he had been marked as absent. Thankfully, the boy was eventually found physically unharmed, but an imperative security measure wasn’t followed when the school marked the young student as “absent” without a call to or from his parents.

There are countless stories, in varying degrees like this, which occur too frequently. As a parent of a young child myself, it is very obvious just how quickly they can disappear. I don’t know how many times in the grocery store, I may go to read a label, look down and my child has vanished around the corner into another aisle. It’s terrifying, but also demonstrates just how easy it is to lose track of children to even the best of us. Schools have it especially hard, where the students outnumber teachers approximately 16-1. Keeping track of one speedy child is difficult enough, not to mention an average of 16, per teacher, a day. Schools need measures in place to help follow student’s whereabouts and track those in their care.

Our world is growing increasingly scarier, so when a child is lost track of, it brings with it more ominous feelings than it would have years ago. Consequently, this makes it imperative that safety guidelines and solutions are implemented in every school. In the Philadelphia case, the school admitted to dropping the ball by not contacting a parent when a student is marked absent. If a parent had not called in their own child’s absence, how and why was that student marked down as absent? Most likely, user clerical error on outdated methods of taking attendance led to this type of mistake. Someone absent on their first day of kindergarten should have raised a big red flag to someone. If the software had been utilized it literally would have alerted someone that the child’s location was unknown. Equipment that can be used to track students is necessary these days and helps aid busy teachers and faculty maintain this importantly vital information effectively and accurately.

Other cases continue happening that call to light the safety concerns plaguing schools. Like one instance in NYC in July of last year, where a pre-k student ran out of the building, through an unlocked door, and could not be found by teachers. Thankfully, the child walked safely home on the city streets to his mother. Nevertheless, the school had no cameras and the door, which was not an emergency exit, had no alarm and was unlocked, allowing the child to easily exit. Securing doors and access control methods are very basic and should be something already at every school. This type of safety procedure is perhaps the most vital in protecting the students and keeping them from wandering off. Not one child, teacher, or parent should ever have to go through the frightening situation where they can’t find someone or be found.

To help prevent situations like with students of any age, 3 security methods that schools should follow are:

  1. Make sure attendance is accurate. If the parent hasn’t called, don’t mark them absent! It seems pretty obvious, but mistakes happen, or assumptions are made. If Johnny wasn’t feeling well yesterday, don’t assume he is home with his mom today, or do not presume his mom just hasn’t called yet, but will probably do so soon. Attendance should be something that is taken in painful detail and is not breezed through. If a call to the administration office or the child’s home to confirm whereabouts is needed, then take the time to do so despite the few extra minutes it might take.
  2. Track your student’s whereabouts. It doesn’t matter if general attendance was taken in the first period of the day. Suzie Smith could have wandered off when period 2 started. Take attendance after every period change to know where every student is and in what room. Lunchtimes and recess can be tricky depending on each facility, but doing a roll call before and after will go a long way. Headcounts can be inaccurate, so make sure every name is either marked off on a printed list, on an excel sheet, or most ideally in a software program designed for it. If students are used to being regularly checked on, they will have less inclination to venture away.
  3. Make sure all doors are secured or locked, or that access control is adopted. No doors to the outside should ever be unlocked. If a door can be exited through from the inside, it should only be an emergency exit that sounds an alarm when exited through. Children should not be able to sneak out quietly, and outsiders should not be able to enter either.

Most of these security procedures are free of cost. They just merely take time and diligence by keeping up with them. For new solutions a school may want to implement that they do not have already; there are many affordable options available. Some new ones on the market literally GPS track where a child is, and are taking technology to a whole new level. While impressive, some of it seems unnecessarily expensive and overall extreme to low-jack a child. Perhaps it may one day be crucial, but for 2016, implementing these 3 basic security guidelines should go a long way. Start with attendance procedures, then focus on access control and door locks, and finally tracking student whereabouts.