“Best of” Back-to-School Health and Safety Tips 2009: Part II

If you are a parent or someone who takes care of kids in any way, shape or form (which I’m guessing you are if you’re reading this) there are three words that have dominated your world for the past couple of weeks: “back to school”. It is likely that you have not spent a day, opened a newspaper or a journal or gone backtoschool-3to the sites you typically visit on the internet and not seen these words staring back at you in an article telling you: “How can you best prepare your kids”, “The 101 things you should know before sending your kids back to school …” etc. Sometimes it seem like there are a million articles…by a million experts. Unfortunately, with so much information it can be a bit overwhelming at times, when all we really want is someone to give us the answer to the very basic question of “what should I do to handle this particular situation.”

So for those of you who didn’t read part I, I’ve gone through all my sources and created a “best of” health and safety tips across all the expert information I’ve found, in the hopes that it will save everyone a little time that they could be otherwise be using to get 5 more minutes (or 1 extra hug) in with their kids before they head off to school. (*Please note: as with yesterday, I am sourcing other author’s tips and will cite all references below – all copyrights, credit and thanks belong to them)

Heading to School:

Waiting for the Bus:

  • Arrive at the stop at least five minutes before the bus arrives and stay out of the street while waiting for the bus to arrive
  • Wait on the same side of the street as the school bus loading/unloading zone
  • Look before stepping into the street to make sure there are no cars passing the bus
  • Cross the street at least 10 feet (or 10 giant steps) in front of the bus to make sure drivers can see them. Drivers have a blind spot of 10 feet in front of the bus.
  • Wait until the bus comes to a complete stop before exiting and exit from the front of the bus.
  • Ask the bus driver for help if anything is dropped while entering or exiting the bus.

While on the bus:

  • Remain seated, forward facing at all times and keep the aisles clear.
  • Do not shout or distract the driver unnecessarily – this includes throwing things
  • Keep heads and arms inside the bus at all times. Parents should also make sure that they remove loose drawstrings or ties on jackets and sweatshirts that can snag on bus handrails, and replace with Velcro, snaps or buttons.

Walking to school:

  • It’s recommended that children under ten never cross the street alone – additionally:JB230908walk-01.jpg
  • Choose the safest route and walk it with children.
  • Instruct children to recognize and obey all traffic signals and markings.
  • Make sure children look in all directions before crossing the street and teach them to never dart out into traffic.
  • Direct children to not to enter the street from between parked cars or from behind bushes or shrubs – teach them to cross at a corner or crosswalk.
  • Warn children to be extra alert in bad weather
  • A bright colored jacket might make your child more visible to traffic.
  • In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider starting a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school

Riding a bike to school:

  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Know the “rules of the road”: Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic, use appropriate hand signals and respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright color clothing to increase visibility.
  • Do not allow children to ride on the road without direct adult supervision until age ten.

Btw – Here’s a great brochure by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) that uses graphics and humor to teach little kids how to be safe on their way to school

During the School Day:

Eating during the day:

  • Many schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home. This gives you the option of packing lunch on the days when you, or your child, don’t like the meal served.
  • Try to get your child’s school to stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100 percent fruit juice in the vending machines. Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%.


  • Today, unfortunately bullying occurs in many different forms and can sometimes be difficult to Back to school-bullyingrecognize. The American Academy of Pediatrics has detailed guidelines on managing bullying from the perspective of the child being bullied, the child who is the bully and the bystander. Across all 3 categories, what is consistent is involving a parent or another adult to develop a proactive solution. Rather than try and abbreviate this section, if this is an issue for your child, well documented and excellent guidelines can be sourced here

Keeping them safe at school:

  • Ask your child about safety in his or her school. Where do they feel most safe? Least safe? Why?
  • Identify comfort levels and methods for reporting safety concerns. Do students have at least one adult and/or method they would feel comfortable in reporting safety concerns to at school?
  • Examine access to your school. Are there a reduced number of doors that can be accessed from the outside (while still allowing children to exit from the inside in an emergency)? Do faculty know who is in their school?
  • Determine if your school has a school safety team, safety plan and ongoing process, as well as a school crisis team and school emergency/crisis preparedness guidelines. Are these plans and guidelines reviewed regularly – at least once a year? If so, do the students, school employees and parents know about them? Are they tested and exercised?
  • Do school officials have meaningful, working relationships with police, fire and other public safety agencies serving their schools? Do they have direct input on school safety plans?
  • Finally 5 excellent questions that your schools crisis mgmt team should know the answer to – if not, get involved (same author):
    1. How do you dial 9-1-1 from the school phones? Do you need to get an outside line first?
    2. What is the actual street address of the school if asked by a 9-1-1 dispatcher?
    3. If your schools nearby walking evacuation site is a community church, does someone have the keys to get in if no one from the church is there when you arrive?
    4. How long does it really take to mobilize your school bus drivers in the middle of the day if you need to evacuate multiple buildings (e.g. half the school +)?
    5. Have you ever trained students NOT to open doors to people on the outside trying to get into the school?

After School:

Getting home safe and staying that way :

  • Make sure your child walks home with a group of friends or a responsible adult.
  • Make sure to have an adult at the bus stop after school to make sure the kids get home safely.backtoschool-bus stop meet
  • Make a code word that will be used when someone else they do not know will pick them up. Every time you have someone pick your child up from school they have to know your secret code word or you child will not get in the vehicle.
  • Let them know that if an adult makes them feel uncomfortable or is following them have them call 911 and go back to school, to the police, or to a friend’s home as quick as possible. They need to find a safe place.
  • If they are going to be alone in the afternoons, teach them to go straight home, keep doors locked and not answer the door for anyone.
  • Finally, remind them never give out personal information to strangers or on the Internet.

So folks, I know it was a long list, but I hope it’s one you’ll find useful. Until next time keep them healthy, keep them safe…and remember we’ll keep doing our best to help you do both, because one ouch is definitely too many


As we did yesterday, sending out thanks and recognition to some very smart folks for some really terrific advice:

  1. Waiting for the Bus, While on the bus, Walking to school and bullet # 4 of Riding a bike to school: (Parents Need to Talk to Children About Safety When Sending Them Back to School, Susan Laurence of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center July 24, 2009)
  2. Riding a bike to school, Eating during the day, Bullying, and bullet # 8 of Walking to school: (Back to School Tips: American Academy of Pediatrics 2009)
  3. Keeping them safe at school: (Parents & School Safety – Can you Prevent Another Tragedy? How Safe is Your Child’s School: by Ken Trump president of National School Safety & Security Svces and 25+ years of school safety experience)
  4. Getting home safe and staying that way : (Children’s safety tips to remember for back to school: Melina Ann Collison, St Louis Crime Examiner, July 27, 2009)
  5. bullet # 5 of Getting home safe and staying that way : (ADT Safety Tips: Back-to-School Safety, Aug 10, 2009: Patrick Fiel, public safety advisor for ADT Security and former head of security for Washington DC Public Schools)

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About the Author

Stefanie Zucker is President and co-founder of Pediatric Medical and Managing Director and co-founder of Axios Partners, a strategy consulting firm. After a number of years spent researching the safety issues associated with transporting children on ambulances she became a child health safety advocate and formed Pediatric Safety with a goal of creating a world-wide movement of parents and caregivers inspired to protect the health and safety of kids. Stefanie is a member of the PedSafe Team


3 Responses to ““Best of” Back-to-School Health and Safety Tips 2009: Part II”

  1. This is the best back to school safety guide ever!

  2. What a GREAT Post!

    My Girls are both older. My youngest just started her second year of college. What bothers me tremendously is the rise of bullying among YOUNG girls! The increase INTERNET Bullying (cyber-bullying) is on the rise too!

    Children often do NOT tell their parents about this because they feel humiliated and confused. One of the signs.. the do NOT want to attend school.
    Talk to your children, Have family meal times, KEEP the lines of communication open!

    Back to school time is so full of excitement, but for some children it is a time of DREAD. TALK to your KIDS!!!

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