Is your school safe for your child?

Concerned about safety issues at your child's school? Take these questions along on your next visit, and get an insider's view.

By GreatSchools Staff

School climate isn't just about safety; it's about how it feels to be on the campus and how it feels to be a member of the school's community.

The first question to ask your school's staff is "How do you create a healthy campus climate?" The answer to this question can tell you a lot about the school's values and priorities.

Take a look around

The best way to get a sense for the school climate is to go to the school yourself. Always be sure to make an appointment with the principal before you visit a school. After you've spent some time there, ask yourself these questions:

Ask questions

While you're on campus, talk with the principal, teachers, and students. Ask students if they feel safe at school and if they feel safe on the way to and from school. Do students get the feeling that adults in the school community know them and care about them? What do teachers and students think about some of the programs or philosophies that the school has established to deal with school safety issues? The physical condition of the campus can also tell a lot about the attitude of the people who spend their days there.

Discipline policies

In the past decade, many schools have taken special measures to strengthen discipline at school. You will want to learn which procedures and policies your school has adopted to create a safe environment for students and staff. Questions to ask include:

You may also want to investigate your school district's policy on weapons. Many schools have become very strict with regard to this particular issue.

When numbers don't add up

While many parents ask to see data about the suspensions and expulsions at a school, it's difficult to draw quick or simple conclusions from these numbers. A high rate of suspensions or expulsions may indicate that a school is more serious than most about cracking down on discipline problems to maintain an environment suitable for teaching and learning. Or perhaps it means that the school is relatively quick to send away students who pose modest challenges to authority. If you're concerned about a number that seems high (or unusually low), you'll want to ask the principal about it. Remember: statistics are not answers in themselves; rather, they are useful tools to help you discover the right questions to ask.