August 26, 2002
Having a safe school year
from American Academy of Pediatrics
As soon as children set out for school this year, whether by bus, on foot, or otherwise, they will encounter many potential dangers, both large and small. The nation's pediatricians advise parents to make a back-to-school safety plan with their children.
"The positive excitement about the start of the school year needs to be balanced by important safety messages," says Louis Cooper, MD, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). "From discomfort caused by overloaded backpacks to the threats of angry bullies, there are many things children should be reminded of before they go back to school. A little information and preparation can help kids to have happy and healthy first days at school."
Tips for back-to-school safety:
• Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your youngster can walk to school or ride the bus.
• Review bus safety rules with your child: wait for the bus to stop before approaching the curb; do not move around on the bus; check for oncoming traffic before crossing; and avoid bending down in front of the bus to tie shoes, pick up objects, etc., as the driver may not see him or her before starting to move again.
• If your child is biking to school, review the school rules for bicycles, as well as traffic safety precautions regarding traffic and strangers.
Security at School:
• If your child is anxious about whether he or she will be safe while at school, discuss with him or her the plans that have been established at your school to protect students' security, and to respond to emergencies and disasters.
• Arm you child with some strategies for coping with bullies: don't give in to the other child's demands, but simply walk away or tell the bully to stop.
• Don't cry or get upset, as bullies like nothing better.
• If a bullying situation persists and becomes a real problem, parents should talk to the teacher.
• Be sure your child knows where to go after school (e.g., home, babysitter), and how to get there.
• If your child will be at home alone after school, be sure he or she knows who will be responsible for him or her, what the rules are, and how to get help in an emergency.
• Remind children to carry the minimum load in their backpacks, and to pack heavier items closer to the back. Packs should by picked up with knees bent, using the legs to lift. Both straps should be worn so weight is distributed evenly. As an alternative, wheeled backpacks can keep weight off the back altogether.
• The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student's total body weight.
The start of a new school year inspires a mixture of dread and anticipation in most children. Talking with them about their safety lets them know that everything possible is being done for a good year.