Middle School Safety
This middle school safety article focuses on safety in transportation, privacy issues, family issues, violence and theft, and safety in regard to bullying and sexual harassment by middle schoolers.
As students approach adolescence, life can get complicated on a number of fronts. For some students at this age, developmental issues, the challenge of more difficult schoolwork, peer pressure, and fraught family circumstances can lead to safety issues for themselves and others. This article will discuss several important safety considerations for middle school and junior high school students.
Since students who walk to middle school are not supervised, several safety issues may arise. One such issue is hitchhiking. Clearly it can seem more convenient to have a ride to school than to have to walk, but students need to know that getting into a vehicle with someone who they do not know and who doesn’t have a position of community trust (like a teacher or police officer) is a very bad idea.
Other issues that can arise in these unsupervised circumstances include peer pressure and bullying. If the student has no alternative to walking, he or she may be afraid to report what happens on the way to or from school for fear of reprisals. But hopefully it you create an atmosphere of trust and honesty, your child will be able to tell you if anything uncomfortable is going on.
School bus transportation brings up other issues, including being attentive to the bus driver, being respectful to seatmates, and being thoughtful and careful when there is the possibility of germs spreading. Unless the bus driver assigns seats, your child may end up sitting with someone he or she would otherwise avoid. Considering this, you should give your child some guidance about what to do in such a situation, depending on the specifics. If the child feels that he or she is in danger, he should always tell the bus driver.
Middle schools have different policies about physical education, changing, and showering. Find out what school policies are and help your child establish boundaries that he or she is comfortable with and that make him or her feel safe.
Safety When There Are Family Issues
If there is a restraining order or custody agreement that affects the child, the child should be absolutely clear about the terms of it, particularly if there are people who are forbidden to contact the child. The details should be clearly communicated to the middle school to avoid any possible problems. The child should know how to get help if somebody who is not supposed to be in contact is found to be on school property. Some parents feel more comfortable if a child in this situation has a cell phone, but this may need a school okay if student phones are not allowed in the classroom.
Safety Issues With Violence and Theft
According to a 2007 report from the National Center for Education Statistics, which does not separate middle school and senior high school student data, 1.5 million students aged12-18 were victimized by violent crimes and theft at school in 2005. Most of the crimes were thefts. For this reason, you may wish to limit the type of items that students take to school, making them less likely to be targeted. Sneakers, cash, and iPods or other MP3 players are popular targets of theft. Students should also be careful to keep their locker combinations and valuable items that they must bring to school, such as musical instruments, safe.
Safety Issues With Bullying and Sexual Harassment
The Department of Justice National Center for Victims of Crime defines bullying as a person threatens or hurts another person, whether in writing, verbally, or physically. Sexual harassment includes sexual advances that are not welcome; asking for sexual favors; exposing another person to conduct of a sexual nature, whether physical or verbal; and negative behavior, such as acts of hostility that are based on sex, even if they cannot be characterized themselves as sexual.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports in Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2008, published in April, 2009, that reports of daily or weekly bullying and sexual harassment by students of other students were more frequent in middle schools in 2005-06 than in high schools. In 2007, thirty-two percent of students aged12-18 reported having been bullied at school in the preceding six months.
Students need to know what bullying and sexual harassment are so that they can avoid engaging in behaviors that fit these categories and so that they can recognize when someone else is being a bully or harassing them or others. It is especially important for them to recognize the difference between healthy “flirting” and other dating behavior that emerges in adolescence on the one hand and sexual harassment on the other hand.
Schools tend to have explicit rules against peer sexual harassment and bullying, and beyond that, some types of bullying and harassment are also crimes and can be reported both to the school and to the police. Students need to know that they can and should report bullying and harassment that does not hurt them physically but involves only words, such as false rumors, gossip, or threats.