Nine Ways We Can Create Safer Schools for Our Kids

MORAL IQ TIP: Violence is learned, but so too is calmness. Ask yourself: if my child only had my example to watch, what would he catch today?

happy child returning to safer schoolOver these past few months I’ve received countless letters from parents who share a deep concern about the safety of their children’s schools. So if you’ve had a few worry pangs, believe me, you’re not alone. Be assured that children do not become homicidal maniacs overnight. They’ve usually had a gradual, steady build-up of risk factors (such as neglect, bullying, toxic parenting, failures, poor coping skills, exposure to violence, substance abuse) with limited positive experiences to counter them. Their anger starts slowly mounts, until it turns to rage then finally explodes. Do keep the perspective that 99.9% of schools are safe, but there clearly are things we can do to make our kids safer. The biggest mistake is that we continue reacting instead of preventing such atrocities and we need to start earlier. Here are a nine ways teachers and parents can make a difference in creating safer schools for our children:

1. Take threats seriously. Over seventy percent of adolescents who commit homicide or suicide, tell someone their plan before carrying it out. We must stress to kids take threats seriously and report them. Then schools should provide options for reporting such as: a 24-hour hot line, a “concern box,” designated staff members and peers, and a school Web site to email threats. Many students fear peer retaliation, so methods to report anonymously should be available.

2. Set a zero tolerance to bullying. The Secret Service study of student shootings found the only commonality was that each shooter was repeatedly bullied by peers. Schools, parents, and neighbors must set a zero tolerance to bullying. And that expectation (and infringement consequences) should be signed by all students and their parents. We must expect and demand that children treat all living beings in a moral manner and it has to start with adults.

3. Keep shooters’ photos off front pages. The media must keep the shooters off their paper’s front page and television screens. It just fuels a vulnerable kid looking for attention, and the result is too often a copy-cat shooting.

4. Teach anger management and conflict resolution. The only way kids are going to learn peacefulness is if we show them how to manage their anger. An effective strategy is called 1 + 3 + 10. Explain to your child:

“When you feel your body sending you a warning sign that says you’re losing control, do three things. First, stop and say: ‘Be calm.’ That’s 1. Now take three deep, slow breaths from your stomach. That’s 3. Finally, count slowly to ten inside your head. That’s 10. Put them all together and you have 1 + 3 + 10, and doing it helps you calm down and get back in control.”

Then help your child repeatedly practice it so he learns it.

5. Zero tolerance to weapons. Putting a fire arm into the hands of a troubled kid with a short fuse is creating a time bomb just waiting to explode. What’s especially frightening is that half of our American adolescents say they can access a gun in less than an hour. If we want safer schools, we must do everything we can to keep weapons out of our schools, and the best way is to not make them accessible to kids.

6. Monitor media viewing. Over 1000 studies-including reports from the Surgeon General’s office and the National Institute of Mental Health-validate that TV violence influences aggressive behavior in some children. Be aware of the ratings for violence on television (as well as music, movies, and video games) then set clear standards for your child and stick to them.

7. Nurture strong moral habits. Three virtues are especially critical in protecting kids against violence: a conscience that guides them to know right from wrong, empathy that helps them feel the victim’s pain, and self-control that halts immoral intentions. These core virtues are teachable, we just need to prioritize them in our homes and schools so our kids learn and use them.

8. Post warning signs for violence. Warning signs for children who may be at risk of violence should be posted everywhere such as doctor offices, Boys and Girls Clubs, school newsletters, media and list resources where parents can seek help. We must identify troubled children early and get them the help they urgently need. If you have even the slightest concern about your child, act on them now!

9. Prioritize our kids. It has been estimated parents today are spending 40 percent less time communicating with their kids than their own parents did with them and spending eleven fewer hours with their children each week compared with the 1960s. It clearly is affecting our kids. Our most important role is to raise our kids to become decent, loving human beings who feel loved. Doing so means our kids must be put back on the top of our priorities.

These warning signs of violence were developed by the U.S. Department of Education
• Social withdrawal
• Excessive feelings of isolation or rejection
• Being a victim of violence
• Feelings of being picked on and persecuted
• Uncontrolled anger
• Low school interest and poor academic performance
• Impulsive and chronic hitting, intimidating, bullying
• Expression of violence in writings and drawings
• History of discipline problems
• Past history of violent and aggressive behavior
• Drug use and alcohol use
• Affiliation with gangs
• Inappropriate access to, possession of, and use of firearms
• Intolerance for differences, prejudicial attitudes
• Serious threats of violence.

************************************************************************************************************Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at

Getting Braces – A Kid’s Perspective

Teenager with booksGetting braces can be a big deal in some kid’s lives and they may not even want to get braces. However, it is very important that, if needed, your child should get braces and also manage them well. If people don’t get braces as a child it could cause serious health problems as an adult including increased risk of tooth loss and extreme discomfort. It’s also not very attractive looking.

Kids could need braces for crooked teeth, over spacing of teeth, or overbite problems. And you may not realize that your child needs braces. I had straight and near-perfect teeth, but I had a slight overbite and a little bit of a spacing problem. When I heard I would need braces for a short while I was perfectly willing and almost indifferent. This is because my mom had braces as an adolescent and has told me she was very glad about this; at the same time my dad did not have braces and his teeth are so crooked, one of them is practically facing sideways and he has always regretted not getting them.

The process for getting braces was fairly simple, on my end, at least. I visited the orthodontist for an assessment over whether or not I would actually need braces. He examined my teeth and showed me some before and after pictures (your child may see some friend’s teeth, I did!) then told me I would need them for about two years with no headgear (some kids wear headgear when they sleep). I later went for a mould of my teeth so the orthodontist could custom fit my braces (Try not to swallow the molding mixture; I hear from friends it’s nasty when swallowed). I got the top on first and the bottom braces on a few months later. I now visit about once every one to two months to get them tightened.

Getting-braces-from-kids-perspectiveWith the braces there are some food restrictions such as no popcorn or bubblegum and apples must be cut up, but you get used to it. Most food will get stuck in the braces, however. To deal with issues such as this the office arms each kid with an array of tools: small brush-picks, topical numbing agents for pain, wax to prevent the brackets from scraping up the gums, a convenient carrying case, etc. I carry my accessories in my backpack and make good use of them. On the note of numbing agents and pain, your child will want to use painkillers and eat soft foods for the first week of having braces and possibly after each adjustment depending on the sensitivity of their mouth. I play rugby, a contact sport for those that don’t know, and I had to get a specialized mouth guard to protect my braces. If your child plays a contact sport you will also have to get a specialized mouth guard but they are easy to find so don’t worry. They do not, however, guarantee the safety of your child’s braces so you may have to take them in for repair. For any parents concerned that their child will get teased or called brace face, don’t worry! Probably 99% of kids these days have braces so it would be completely stupid for a kid to pick on someone for the norm.

Video – Measles in a Young Girl and a Mother’s Regret

Hear from a mother who decided not to vaccinate her child, and came to regret that choice when her daughter, Lola, contracted measles at a birthday party. It was difficult to watch her daughter suffer with this harsh illness and Lola was left with a perforated eardrum and permanent hearing damage.

Deadly Measles on the RiseEditor’s Note: Video Highlights

  • Relying on other kids being vaccinated is risky
  • Measles can be a very harsh illness and difficult to diagnose as the rash doesn’t appear right away
    • You may have trouble finding a doctor who is familiar with measles
  • Lola, The little girl in this video, has permanent hearing damage due to her bout of measles
  • The mother expresses her regret and feelings of guilt for not getting Lola vaccinated


< > <    

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 08-17-2015 to 08-23-2015

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
“Forgotten Victims” program helps kids deal with trauma from child abuse

Transition to Independence Act Opens Doors for the Disabled

Senator Wyden meetingLike most special needs parents, I don’t have a lot of free time. Sometimes I can’t even keep up on the news or find time to vote (although I fixed that problem by voting by mail). But recently three senators put party lines aside to work together on the Transition to Independence Act and this time I put a few things on hold to read up on it.

This program would work through Medicaid to financially reward states that increase job training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities over the course of five years. It would also allow individuals with disabilities to buy their way into Medicaid. The act may improve the financial situation of disabled individuals as well as improve their working conditions and expand their possibilities. It will finally allow people to work and pursue a career without losing Medicaid benefits. You can read a summary of the bill here.

As with any piece of legislation this bill may have a long road ahead of it, but kudos to Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA) for stepping up to bring these issues into focus and for at least trying to take some action. While most of the media attention tends to focus on autism, people with other conditions, such as muscular dystrophy, will also benefit from the bill.

Transition to Independence Act – Primary Purpose:

  • Improve opportunities for people with disabilities to obtain integrated employment and reduce their relegation to subminimum wages and segregated environments;
  • Modernize and coordinate systems to offer cost-effective supports and services to people with disabilities consistent with the rising expectations of and for people with disabilities; and
  • Ensure that people with disabilities and their families regularly receive accurate information about and have access to services and supports that promote self-determination, independence, productivity, and integration and inclusion.

Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management Oregon; CC license

Shaun the Sheep Movie is AMC’s Sensory Friendly Film for August

Sensory-Friendly-Films-logoOnce a month, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and with other special needs “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy their favorite “family-friendly” films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Shaun the Sheep PosterDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

This Saturday August 22nd, at 10am local time, the Autism Society’s “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” program will be showing the Shaun the Sheep Movie. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming September 26th: Hotel Transylvania


Editor’s note: Although the Shaun the Sheep Movie has been chosen by the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for rude humor. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.