Keeping Our Children Out of Harm’s Way To and From School

Safe routes to school is a top priority for any parent and family. As more cities are creating live, play- and work-communities, it’s imperative for school districts and city governance to ensure that safe routes for children, seniors and residents are in place.

Parents face many challenges when it comes to allowing their child to bike or walk to school. For some communities, the challenges consist of predators, dogs, vacant houses, drug and sex trafficking. Lack of sidewalks also put our community members in harms way.

In Atlanta, we recently had a young child killed by a dog attack on the way to school. His death brought to light the many incidents and warning signs of children and seniors being chased or attacked by stray dogs.  Immediately after the incident I shared the following tips with our schools and residents about ways to ensure our children and seniors are safe.

  1. Ensure that all households/residencies with dogs and pets are properly housed i.e. having collars on all outdoor animals, fences with locks, appropriate heights and security, as well as having leashes while walking your pets.
  2. Report all vacant, blighted or unsafe housing units (homes, apartments, complexes, duplexes, etc.) to City of Atlanta Code Enforcement and/or you can email our Land Use & Zoning Committee.
  3. Removing large trash items blocking the sidewalks and streets i.e. tires, abandoned or non-functioning cars, large furniture, etc.

Because of safety concerns, many parents have resorted to driving their children to and from school. In addition to increasing traffic on the roads, this also prevents children from engaging in the health benefits from walking/biking to school. An alarming number of children are battling chronic diseases such as diabetes, childhood obesity, kidney failure and cancer, while walking/biking to school can’t solve all these issues it can help reinforce healthy lifestyle habits for children. Though she is no longer our first lady, we must continue the work of Michelle Obama in increasing access to healthy habits for communities.

Keeping children safe should be a top priority for every school. In order to do this, schools must make community and family engagement a priority by ensuring that security plans include ways for all stakeholders—faculty and staff members—to help with protecting students during the school day, arrival, dismissal and after school activities.

Plans also need to include effective ways of informing parents and the community about safety incidents and concerns for improvement. There has to be a conscious conversation with stakeholders about community dynamics that are taking place so that school leaders can be prepared to diffuse situations.

 Schools are the light, hope and security blanket for our communities. Putting children and families first requires involvement of all stakeholders in and outside of the school walls.
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