Why Schools Must Acknowledge Dismissal as a Critical Component of School Safety
Having proper policies in place, openly communicating with parents, and implementing available technology will make school dismissals safer.
The views expressed by guest contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.
The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments defines school safety as schools and school-related activities where students are safe from violence, bullying and harassment, and the influence of substances. While many schools have policies in place to protect students during school hours, oftentimes these protocols are forgotten after the bell rings.
However, the safety of students is the responsibility of the school from the moment kids are dropped off in the morning until the kids make it home.
Prioritizing school safety during dismissal is vital but often difficult to manage due to students’ ever-changing dismissal protocols, high volumes of traffic, and chaos staff may feel as students rush to go home. Increasing safety for students must be the goal for all school districts.
Fortunately, schools have more resources than ever to streamline the school dismissal process, enhancing safety and efficiency for all involved.
School Safety Doesn’t Stop After the Bell Rings
School safety is top of mind for all schools. However, some schools fail to recognize that school safety includes dismissal.
In February 2022, deputies were called about a suspicious person in the parking lot of a Colorado middle school under the influence around 3:30 p.m., just around dismissal time. This person behaved erratically, putting parents, teachers, and students’ lives in danger. The situation escalated, causing the school to initiate lockdown mode until it was deemed safe for staff to escort students to alternate bus and parent pickup areas.
This incident is only one of many examples of the risks that are associated with school dismissals. Without the proper security measures in place, there is a risk of strangers lurking on school property, posing a risk for everyone on campus. Having a proper policy in place for when such an event occurs is crucial to keep students safe and to effectively communicate safety concerns and dismissal changes with parents.
Dismissal vulnerabilities aren’t secluded to only strangers on campus; they can also include the risk of students unsafely stepping out into the street, wandering off on their own, or even getting into the wrong car. School administration is responsible for creating routines to ensure each kid gets home safely while acknowledging that sometimes routines can get disrupted, and to always have a policy in place if an emergency were to occur.
School dismissals are undoubtedly one of the most hectic and stressful parts of the school day. However, there are many solutions nowadays to simplify the process.
School Dismissal: Problems and Solutions
Gone are the days of handwritten notes, walkie-talkies, and dozens of phone calls requesting school dismissal changes and student absences. Traditional methods of managing dismissals come with plenty of room for error which ultimately results in major safety risks for students. In today’s day and age, when more and more teachers are reporting suffering from burnout due to staffing shortages and strenuous workloads, disordered tasks, such as school dismissals, aren’t something many teachers have the bandwidth for.
Nevertheless, there are many tactics school districts can implement to simplify the dismissal process, providing teachers with more time to focus on what matters – teaching.
Simplifying dismissals begins with policy. School dismissal is a continuously evolving process, and since staff are at the frontlines of dismissal, they are the first to notice its pain points. It’s critical for school districts to have an open line of communication to build and improve dismissal policies for the better good of everyone involved.
Policies must include how parents can inform schools of any changes in their kid’s routine, as it’s important for staff to understand who is picking up their kid and where. Moreover, schools need alternative solutions for circumstances when the designated person to pick up their kid does not arrive or is running late.
To have a strong dismissal process, parents must remain informed of all policy changes via email, mailings, phone calls, and social media. Parent adoption is essential for any school dismissal process to work effectively.
EdTech: The Modern School Dismissal Solution
The modern solution to avoid school dismissal anxieties, as well as to maximize safety and efficiency, is to implement the proper school dismissal software to streamline the process. School dismissal software solves the question of where students are after dismissal and how they will arrive home safely. A comprehensive dismissal software can give parents and staff peace of mind knowing that each student is always accounted for.
School dismissal software is typically accessible through a smartphone application or web browser where parents, teachers, and other staff can use it to check on kids after dismissal. Having easy access to the software allows for streamlined processes where minimal effort is needed from school staff. With added security features like ID checks, password protection, and encryption, schools can safely carry out dismissals.
Additionally, school dismissal software can be used in accordance with the existing school dismissal procedure, making it very secure. Geo-fence features Global Positioning System (GPS) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to define geographical boundaries. Using these positioning and authentication systems, schools can accurately and seamlessly allow for safe dismissal processes.
Incorporating geo-fencing into a particular software can allow administrators to create triggers and set them up so that when another device enters or exits from the predetermined boundaries, alerts will be sent to the dismissal administrative.
Along with alerts being sent, insights on students can be provided for each school, keeping staff informed of who students go home with and at what time. Keeping a log and ensuring dismissal accuracy further increases safety and diminishes the chances of students being dismissed to the wrong person.
The proper software or application can make it easier than ever for teachers to track dismissal changes and to communicate directly with parents. Including a school-to-parent engagement messaging aspect can allow schools to quickly address parents’ concerns by keeping them informed of any occurrences or emergencies going on. Keeping an open line of communication will efficiently improve the dismissal process and gain the trust of parents.
In today’s world of uncertainties, student safety is imperative. Both staff and parents must cooperate with policies to ensure students are able to go to and from school safely. Streamlining the school dismissal process simplifies the process for all involved, increasing both safety and efficiency.
The technology now exists to manage the chaos of school dismissals. Incorporating features, such as geofencing and direct messaging, can make school dismissals stress-free for parents and schools. Applying a technology-based approach to manage school dismissals will provide more time for teachers in the classroom and provide parents comfort knowing their kids are accounted for every school day.
Pat Bhava is the CEO and founder of Pikmykid, a safety and dismissal platform that empowers schools to simplify dismissal, engage parents, and keep students safe.