More than a quarter of a million students will return to schools across Broward County on Monday, Aug. 19. As a parent of high school-age triplets, my wife and I can relate to the demands of getting children ready for the school year.
Amid the commotion of the season, it is important to always remember our No. 1 back-to-school priority: keeping kids safe. As we approach the start of the 2013-14 school year, I encourage you to talk with your children about safety and share with them these important tips:
• If your child is walking to or from school, walk the route with them beforehand. Choose the most direct way, and be sure the route has sufficient sidewalks, lighting and crossing guards. Absent a crossing guard, be sure your child knows when it is safe to cross the street.
• Make sure your child walks to and from school with other trusted schoolmates and follows the tried and true axiom, “Never talk to strangers.”
• Teach your kids to obey all traffic signals when walking or biking to school.
• When biking, be sure your child has a helmet and appropriate safety pads.
• When waiting for the school bus, always stand on the curb away from the roadway. Always remain seated while on the bus.
• Be sure your child knows a phone number where you can be reached in case of an emergency. Being hit by a car poses the greatest threat to any child walking or riding a bicycle to school. As drivers, it is our responsibility to avoid dangerous distractions behind the wheel. Pay attention near crosswalks and areas around schools where children could potentially run into the roadway. Sending a text message or reading an email is not worth the risk of a potential tragedy.
The back-to-school season gives drivers a good opportunity to freshen up on the rules of the road. Florida law prohibits passing a school bus in either direction when it is stopped with its red lights flashing. Drivers must also remember to slow down to the posted speed limit in school zones.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office does not tolerate negligent actions that could harm our community’s children. Anyone caught passing a stopped school bus or speeding in a school zone can expect to be stopped and cited accordingly.
In recent years, cyberstalking and bullying, via a cell phone and/or computer, have also become a threat to our children’s safety. These methods of bullying bring peer intimidation outside the walls of the school and into the home.
Monitoring your child’s social media accounts should be a priority. Controlling the bullying in our culture requires a collective undertaking of communication between teachers, parents and children.
No incident of bullying should ever go unreported. You should immediately contact a teacher, school administrator or law enforcement officer. You can also make an anonymous report to Broward County Public Schools.
Call the school district’s Emergency/Silence Hurts Tip Line at 754-321-0911, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a text to CRIMES 274637 (message must begin with SBBC). For more information about their anti-bullying policy, visit browardschools.com/schools/bullying.htm
As parents, teachers and community leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure our children’s safety. Remember, as we approach the busy back-to-school season, speak to your children about important safety tips. Be mindful on the roadways and avoid unnecessary distractions. Together we can make the 2013-14 school year safe and successful.
*Scott J. Israel is sheriff of Broward County.