Hank Investigates: School Safety
The morning good-byes at the bus stop, a little tougher and a little more tender in these uncertain days. Every parent wonders what if they're at work and the kids are in class and something happens.
Jody Geary, Rockland Mother
Jody Geary with kids in several Rockland schools, worried how they would all reconnect in an emergency.
So as part of Jody's emergency research, she called the schools to find out their plans. She wasn't happy with the answer, "we'll tell you when the time comes."
School officials in Rockland told us that they're relying on police to notify parents, but how and when? We found, across the state, other parents asking the same questions.
Hank Phillippi Ryan, Investigative Reporter
David Driscoll, Mass. Commissioner of Education
The state's education commissioner says there are no specific federal or state rules for schools in an emergency. He just sent this book of sample procedures to all school districts, but confirming they actually have a plan is not the state's job.
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Our survey of dozens of school districts found that crisis planning ranges from comprehensive to play it by ear. Some have sent home instruction letters, others are still having meetings.
In Watertown, they've set up this computer system. It will auto-dial every parent with specific emergency instructions.
Jane O'Connor, Principal, Watertown Middle School
In Salem, volunteers will work a telephone tree.
Herb Levine, Superintendent, Salem School District
"We have people, who would be making phone calls and making certain all kids were accounted for an taken by a responsible adult."
But many districts will simply rely on local access cable or major news outlets to give information. And in other schools, where we found they're still setting up notification systems, that puts some responsibility on parents.
But don't wait until there's an emergency, worried principals imagine phone systems crashing as hundreds of parents call in simultaneously.
Experts say now is the time to make sure youíll be notified in case of emergency, as we said, itís different in every community.
Since every school district has its own emergency plan, the following steps can help you figure out what your particular school district has planned.
- Call the your child's principal and ask about the school's emergency plan. If you have children in more than one school, call each school.
- Ask the principal how you will be notified in case of an emergency. Will it be by phone call? Radio? Television? Cable Access? Email? The Internet?
- You can also call your district's superintendent. The superintendent oversees the schools' programs and should be able to give you information.
- Check the school or the school district's website. Many schools post emergency information on the Internet.
- If you changed jobs or moved, make sure the school has updated emergency contact information. Many schools will not release kids during an emergency unless a parent has been contacted.
For more information, you can go to the State Department of Education's website.
To look up contact information for a specific school district, go to http://profiles.doe.mass.edu.