The quest for a safe school
Mierza Miranti ; A trainer and member of Asian Creative Writer
With the new school year looming, now is the time for most parents in Indonesia to search for the best schools for their children. The issue of school safety has given parents an extra item on their checklist on how to find a safe and supportive school environment, particularly following reports of sexual abuse at prestigious school in Jakarta.
As supervision shifts from home to school at certain periods of time, parents certainly do not want their children to worry about their own safety as it may affect the learning process. Thus, as a teacher who has been teaching at international schools for years and enrolling her children in the same place, I have put together a checklist for parents to go through before making any decision.
First, come to the school’s open house. Use the opportunity to observe teachers’ interaction with their students and how they manage their behavior.
Yet, if students are not involved in the program, parents can inspect the school’s physical surroundings as a start. See whether it is a school that can ensure hygiene as well as handle vandalism.
Yet, since it is a marketing program, it would be wise to only use it merely to narrow down the choices. Additional school visits are strongly suggested with regards to making the best decision.
Second, at the next school visit, find out how the school supervises their students during learning periods. A safe school might have two options: duty roster arrangements or a CCTV monitoring system.
If it is based on roster, ask for the contingency plan if the person-on-duty is absent. Seek clarification if one happens to see a group or lone student passing through an empty hall with no supervision.
Yet, if the school uses CCTV, parents can ask whether the screen is fully supervised or not because, if the CCTV is intended to “spot” a fault it has failed its control function — especially when it is not combined with the teacher roster.
Second, observe the interactions between those at the school. The best time to do this is before and during recess. Visitors can observe whether the staff and students are engaged and respectful.
If possible, observe the relationship between the principal and faculty. A safe school will ensure a healthy relationship among their staff members and students.
Third, observe for the campus’ cleanliness during school hours. Doing it during and a while after recess can be the best time to find out how successful school instills the habit to their students. Afterward, parents can see firsthand the standard of the school’s cleaning service.
Fourth, ask information about bullying, harassment and other daily management and intervention programs with regards to student behavior. A safe school is not an impulsive school that treats students’ behavior after it occurs. It has a well-planned and structured program that also involves the student to raise awareness.
Fifth, ask for data of students’ leave and staff turnover. Yet, do not rely too much on these statistics. A high level of expulsion may indicate that the school has a high regard for discipline. On the contrary, it can also show their inability to improve the students’ behavior.
Yet, a high staff turnover can lead you to other questions to ask on the quality of staff recruitment and development system of the school. Since for the students, a high staff turnover might influence the learners’ sense of security, especially during secondary school years.
Sixth, find out about the school’s policy of students’ use of electronic devices. Does the school ask their students to hand them over? If they require the students to bring a laptop, find out whether the school has a solid Internet filtering system. Remember that cyberbullying is as dangerous as the physical act.
Finally, request for a sit-in session in the classroom, remember that it is the child that will undergo everything at school. Ask for two days to one week, if possible. Otherwise, one day might be fine to seek for the child’s opinion about the school. Take it as part of the consideration.
These checklist items are actually very basic ones that every school must have. A good school might have a long list of policies but a safe school is the one that really applies it. A safe school also requires involvement of the whole school, not merely the security division. Hopefully, the chosen school can be a second home that ensures equal security to that provided at home. ●