al_lamberti_web_fc_1.jpegNearly a quarter-million students will be returning to school in Broward County on Monday, Aug. 22. The safety of all children is our number-one priority and it should be yours, too. Even if you do not have school-aged children, it is important to remember there are ways everyone can help keep our kids safe.

Drivers need to remember that Florida law prohibits passing, in either direction, a school bus that is stopped with its flashing lights activated. Drivers must also remember to slow down in school zones.  Driving slowly and carefully through school zones sharply reduces the risk of a tragic accident.

Anyone caught passing a stopped school bus or speeding in a school zone can expect a costly fine; the Broward Sheriff’s Office simply will not tolerate violations that could harm a child.

Remember, many students will be riding their bicycles or walking to school. Pay attention to crosswalks and areas near schools where children could potentially dart into the roadway. Being hit by a car is by far the greatest threat to any child walking or riding a bicycle to school.

Parents and guardians need to ensure their child is wearing a helmet; it’s the law. Helmets are the single most effective safety device for cyclists and greatly reduce the risk of death or critical injury.

Remind your child to always ride his or her bicycle with the flow of traffic and obey stop signs and traffic signals. Children should also stay on the sidewalk and only cross at crosswalks.

Now is a good time to remind your child to never, ever, stop to talk to strangers on the way to and from school and, most importantly, never get into any vehicle with a stranger. These could potentially be life-threatening. Again, even if you do not have school age children, if you see something suspicious near a school or playground, report it to 911 immediately.

If you have watched or listened to news reports lately, bullying among teens and young adults is a hot topic. Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional and involves an imbalance of power or strength. A child who is being bullied has a hard time defending himself or herself. Usually, bullying is repeated over time.

Bullying can take many forms, such as physical, verbal, emotional and cyber-bullying. Signs that your child might be bullied are: torn clothes, loss of appetite, mood changes and/or a reluctance to go to school.

Bullying – whether or not it is happening to your child or a classmate – should be reported right away. You may make an anonymous report by calling the Broward School District’s emergency hotline at 754.321.0911.

By keeping safety in mind, we can all work together to make the 2011-2012 school year safe and successful.