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The National PTA started Take Your Family to School Week over 120 years ago. Celebrated February 14-18, 2022, the goal is to encourage guardians to become more involved in their child’s school.
According to the CDC, parental engagement in schools results in students who earn higher grades, behave better, and have increased social skills. Their engagement also helps bridge the gap between schools and parents. This is especially important considering half of parents feel their school has a false sense of security, and 30% think their school is not prepared to handle an array of safety issues, according to the 2021 State of School Safety Report.
“It’s the fear of the unknown that makes parents anxious,” explains Donna Michaelis, Director of the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety. If schools do not involve parents, they can start having negative perceptions, especially when they hear about worrisome events through their children or in the news.
Schools and parents should collaborate on supporting and improving school safety and thereby the learning environment. The following are three ways schools can encourage and promote parent engagement.
1- Ensure Parents Are on Your Safety Team
School safety is everyone’s responsibility. “You have to gather your key stakeholders around the table,” Chief Frank Kitzerow, President of the National Association of School and Campus Police Chiefs, said on a Raptor webinar. “It’s never ‘one-size-fits-all’ in school safety.” These stakeholders include law enforcement, staff, students, safety organizations, and—you guessed it—parents. Each will bring their perspectives into the conversation, which can inform the school of issues that are occurring outside and inside schools. It also enables everyone to learn from one another.
2- Host Information Sessions
Along with Meet the Teacher or Open House events, schools can host educational sessions. Conducted either virtually or in-person, these sessions can be taught by various school staff depending on the topic. For example, a school counselor can teach parents how to identify mental health issues, whereas your school resource officer (SRO) may lead a session specifically about threat assessment protocols. These sessions should allow parents to ask questions and provide feedback. It’s important schools offer sessions in multiple languages, so that parents can participate regardless of their native language.
3- Recruit Parents to Help
After 23 students at a Louisiana high school were arrested, suspended, or expelled in less than 72 hours (about 3 days) for fighting on campus, a group of dads formed Dads on Duty USA, a non-profit organization that hopes to expand nationwide. Their mission is to have a presence on the campus and help promote a peaceful environment where students learn instead of getting into trouble. And it worked. Gang violence, according to the school’s principal, has decreased since the dads became active on campus.
Parents that volunteer on campus or at school events help create a sense of security. They can also be an extra set of eyes that can supervise and report potential safety concerns. Parents can help monitor the hallways, buses, and playgrounds, as well as assist with mentoring students and chaperoning field trips.
Are There School Safety Tools That Can Help?
Whether you are recruiting parents for an event or an outside organization to host an information session, you’ll need a reliable way to screen and approve each volunteer. Trusted by 50,000+ schools worldwide, Raptor Volunteer Management provides an integrated, customizable online volunteer application, full criminal background checks, volunteer hour tracking, event management, and robust reporting.