Keeping Our Children Safe: How Secure Are Our Schools Really?

When school begins each year, my children bring home a stack of forms I have to fill out and send back. My hand begins to cramp just looking at them. An emergency contact form with phone numbers, addresses, and names of people that the school can release my children to is the first one. In bold print it states that anyone not on this form cannot check out your children should you be unable to pick them up if they are sick or hurt. There is form on top of form – another states that parents and relatives will have to show picture identification before children can be sent home with them.

I have absolutely no issues with school officials asking to see my picture identification before my child can be allowed to leave the school with me. My children do not attend small schools where most of the school employees can match child with parent, because there are so few to remember. These are schools with 400 plus children to keep track of. A lot of the children look nothing like their mothers or fathers. In the case of my children, two of them are asian. My husband and I are both caucasian. Neither of us have ever been asked to show identification to remove the children from school.

I am not from the town our children go to school in. I am from a much larger city – Arkansas’ capitol – Little Rock. I am now almost an hour north, in a town about half the size, but still large in its own way. Because my home city requires you to show picture identification to check your children out because they are ill, injured, or there is a family emergency – I expected this new city to do the same.

Four years ago, my grandfather died, and his last request was to see my two daughters before his life support was unplugged. I rushed to the school both of my youngest daughters attended, and signed the “check out” list on the counter. The young woman looked at the names on the list and immediately hustled over to the public address system to page the girls in their classrooms. I knew I had never met this lady working in the office, so how did she know I really am the mother of the two small children she was releasing from school grounds?

I waited patiently, and my two little girls toddled into the office with their oversized backpacks making them stagger. The lady behind the counter once again did not ask to see my identification, and smiled warmly as I placed my hand on the school’s office doorknob. Still no request to see identification. At this point I came right out and asked her if she needed to see my license before I left with the children. She then turned to pull my children’s emergency cards, and looked at my license to match it with names on the card that are authorized to leave school grounds with my children.

I will admit one of my daughters does look like me, the other doesn’t. I will also disclose at this time, that I have a different last name than my two youngest daughters, which should have raised a red flag when I signed the check out form. While there are a lot of mothers that have been remarried, reverted to their maiden name after a divorce, or never married the father of their children – a different last name should prompt school officials to pull the emergency cards, and ask for identification, if nothing else makes them wonder.

I also have two older children, (I refuse to call them stepchildren), who are asian. The schools they attend are larger than the afore mentioned school, and yet I have had to force my driver’s license on them as well. I am beginning to see a pattern here, and have questioned the school security many times. Each school in this district have police officers posted to keep our children safe, but the office personnel will let our children go home with anyone. I have deemed it a complete waste of time to even fill out emergency forms, but the schools won’t let children attend without the paperwork returned.

My parents have also gone to the school, and checked out my children before. They were not asked to show their identification, either. I have assessed that unless you storm into the office and announce loudly that you are there to abduct children, you can pretty much walk out with any child.

If you’ve ever wondered how secure your child’s school is, test them. Pick a day when you really do need to remove your child for an appointment and wait in the car. Use a trusted friend or relative you know is not on the list of people allowed to remove your children from school. Send in the afore mentioned friend or relative, and see if he or she walks out alone or accompanied by your little angel.

No matter how old they get, our children come first. Their safety and well-being should be the number one priority whether they are at home or at school. If your child’s school failed your test, take action. Have a meeting with the school principal, and attend Parent Teacher Organization (some schools still call them the PTA) meetings. The PTA or PTO will welcome your concerns, and they may not be aware of the lax school security. Making them aware will benefit everyone.

Visit the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, get informed, and inform others. As parents we have to be the voice of the community, and keep our children safe.

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