ST. PAUL — For parents and students, the start of a new school year brings anticipation and excitement. But there are also safety issues to consider.
Whether students are starting kindergarten, finishing high school, or are away at college, parents are encouraged to make themselves aware of potential dangers and teach their children how to stay safe.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has compiled a list of issues and tips to help parents. From walking to school to surfing the Internet, kids will be safer if they and their parents abide by a few common-sense principles.
“If you’re providing transportation, access to technology, or any type of guidance to a student of any age, you have the ability to help assure they get safely through the school year,” said Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. “We’re providing this information because we want to be sure our students learn safety lessons the easy way — from adults who model safe behavior and give them good advice.”Stay safe online — Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
As children become reacquainted with their peers, they’ll continue classroom conversations online. Sometimes, that includes teasing, humiliating or harassing others. Stop your child from cyberbullying or being a victim by learning the signs and stepping in to deal with the issue. Talk with your child about limiting what they share, including photos, and take steps to help your child be safe online.
- Take charge – establish use guidelines for electronic devices and understand the technology you’re bringing into your home.
- Monitor – use monitoring software to supplement your attention to your child’s Internet use.
- Communicate – talk with your children about protecting themselves and respecting others online.
Go to bca.dps.mn.gov
to learn more about cyberbullying and steps you can take to prevent it. Report instances of inappropriate online contact to: www.missingkids.com/cybertipline.Prevent fires on and off campus — State Fire Marshal
Fire kills Minnesota college students every year both on and off campus. There are many causes of campus fires, but most are due to a lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention. Alcohol also plays a role. Awareness and an action plan will improve chances of survival.
Here are some basic campus fire safety tips:
- Make sure there is a smoke alarm in every bedroom and on every level of the house if you live off campus.
- Clean up immediately after parties and take trash outside.
- Is your dorm equipped with an automatic fire-sprinkler system? Find out.
- Know two escape routes out of your dorm or off-campus residence. Practice using that route when you are awake and not impaired.
- If an alarm sounds, get out. Don’t worry about grabbing your personal belongings.
More fire safety tips and a SFMD video
on campus fire safety are available at sfm.dps.mn.gov. Know what to do during a fire drill — State Fire Marshal
Kids may know how to escape their burning home, but what about their school? Would your child take a fire drill seriously? Fire drills play a big part in classroom safety by preparing students for the unexpected and teach them to get outside quickly and quietly. Teachers and parents should talk to their students and children about fire drills.
Here’s what they should know:
- Take fire alarms seriously.
- When the alarm sounds, get out and stay out.
- Younger children should understand they should not hide from fire.
- Know at least two escape routes beforehand.
- Identify the outside classroom meeting spot.
More information about school fire drills is available from the National Fire Protection Association. Watch for pedestrians and bicycles around schools — Office of Traffic Safety
Back-to-school means added pedestrian and bicycle traffic around schools and campuses. Motorists are reminded to drive attentively and scan the road for pedestrians. It’s the law to stop for pedestrians within the crosswalk. Motorists should use extra caution when turning to look for pedestrians crossing and bicyclists in blind spots.
Key safety tips for pedestrians:
- Clearly show intentions to cross and make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you.
- Cross at intersections, and where possible, in marked crosswalks.
- Continue to look both ways while crossing; distracted drivers aren’t looking out for pedestrians.
Bicyclists are reminded to ride on roads with traffic and obey traffic signals. Riders should also wear helmets and use reflective gear and lights to increase visibility. Motorists must give riders room (at least three-foot clearance) and look twice for bicyclists.
Use the right car seats when driving children to school — Office of Traffic Safety
“Back to school” time is a good reminder for parents to ensure car seats are installed correctly and children are in the correct restraints for their age and size. The most under-used restraints are booster seats, which are required by law in Minnesota.
Boosters are for children who have outgrown a forward-facing, harnessed restraint (typically after age 4). Boosters help seat belts fit children correctly. It is safest for children to ride in boosters until they are 4’9” tall, or at least age 8.
Learn more about car-seat safety, find local car-seat checks and view car-seat installation videos at buckleupkids.mn.gov.
School bus safety is for motorists and children — State Patrol
Study up on school bus safety: Drive attentively, be ready to stop for school buses and be watchful for children exiting buses and crossing streets — that’s where and when they are most vulnerable.
- It’s the law to stop for red flashing lights and when bus stop-arms are extended — both when driving behind a bus and when coming toward a bus on an undivided road.
- Red flashing lights indicate children are entering or exiting the bus.
- Motorists are encouraged to alter their routes or schedules to avoid busses. In doing so, motorists won’t find themselves driving behind a bus and potentially putting children at risk.
Parents should discuss and demonstrate pedestrian safety with their children, and reinforce safe crossing after exiting a bus. Specifically, when getting off a bus, children should look to be sure no vehicles are passing on the shoulder (side of the road). And before crossing the street, take five “giant steps” out from the front of the bus, make eye contact with the driver, wait for the driver to signal that it is safe to cross, and then keep watching traffic when crossing.
Launching a traffic safety message at high school football games — State Patrol
A new Minnesota State Patrol initiative is being launched—literally—at high school football games with the goal of encouraging teens to make the right play by buckling up every time they are in a vehicle.
Troopers will use t-shirt blasters at high school football games this season to pass an important message intended for high schoolers to catch: Wear your seat belt. The bright neon-green t-shirts are emblazoned with “Everyday I’m Bucklin.” Events will be accompanied by stadium public-address announcements, as well as morning messages in school that reinforce the important “buckle up” message.
Study Up on the Minnesota Driver’s Manual — Driver and Vehicle Services
Kids will soon be back in school and studying hard, whether it be for their first math test or to get their driver’s permit or license. Think about the last time you took the written or road test for your driver’s license. How long ago was it? Do you think you could pass if you took the test again?
Adults should have their noses in a book too — the Minnesota Driver’s Manual. Brush up on the rules of the road and important skills to stay safe behind the wheel, and make sure your kids’ transportation to school is safe.
Visit dvs.dps.mn.gov to view the Driver’s Manual.
You are never too young to be prepared — Homeland Security and Emergency Management
As your child heads back to the classroom make sure he or she is prepared to react to a disaster or emergency that could involve the school or the family neighborhood. Cellphone and other communication may not be possible in the first hours of an emergency, so having a family plan is the key to keeping your child calm.
Create a family emergency plan that includes the following:
- Written phone list — prepare a document with the phone numbers of parents, grandparents and a close neighbor and place it in your child’s backpack.
- Pre-established meeting place — choose a local church, store, library or other public location where the family would meet if an emergency or disaster prevented members from reaching the family home.
- Pre-established out of town contact — select a favorite relative or friend that lives out of town. If phone lines are down and cell phone service is overloaded all family members can use a landline to call the contact and report they are OK.
Learn more at hsem.dps.mn.gov
Safe at school — Homeland Security and Emergency Management
HSEM is currently working to reestablish the Minnesota School Safety Center, which will provide resources to schools across the state for emergency planning, training, and preparedness.
Parents should also take a few key steps when it comes to school safety:
- Be familiar with the school’s safety plan.
- Shortly after the school year begins, talk to your child about the lockdown, tornado and fire drills that will occur, and make sure they know what to do.
- Review any special needs. For example, if your child has asthma, how would he or she get their inhaler in an emergency?
Report suspicious behavior — Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Students may notice something out of place at their school or on the transportation they take to school but may not be sure what to do about it. HSEM, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is encouraging anyone, including kids, to “See Something, Say Something.”
- Report suspicious behavior — tell a trusted adult or call 911.
- Suspicious objects — do not touch objects, move a safe distance away and report it immediately.
Learn more about the See Something, Say Something campaign at hsem.dps.mn.gov.
Understand the dangers of underage drinking — Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement
As college campuses around the state welcome students back to school, DPS reminds parents and students alike about the dangers associated with underage drinking.
Underage alcohol consumption can lead to criminal behavior, and serious social and health problems, including:
- School delinquency, failure and dropout.
- Withdrawal, depression and emotional/psychological difficulties.
- Unprotected or unwanted sex, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
- Traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities.
- Suicide, assault and homicide.
DPS’ Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED) is doing its part to combat the issue of underage drinking by teaming up with the Federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to educate local law enforcement and licensed alcohol retailers about underage drinking laws in Minnesota.
For more information, visit age.dps.mn.gov.