Back to School Safety
With school starting next week, I thought it would be important to re-introduce our School Resource Officer (SRO) and remind everyone about how to keep our kids safe while they travel to and from school.
Officer Morse is our current SRO, along with his police dog, Bugsy. Officer Morse has been with the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) since 2006, and this is his second year as the department’s SRO. Bugsy has been with the department since 2010, and is a fully certified narcotics detection dog. Officer Morse and Bugsy continue a tradition of collaboration between UPD and Ukiah Unified School District (UUSD) that has been in existence for more than twenty years.
Typically, the SRO handles close to 1,000 calls for police service a year, or about 5-6 calls per school day. These calls include everything from lost or stolen backpacks and cell phones to bullying to fights on campus, and sometimes more serious crimes.
Officer Morse works closely with school administrators and principles, performing searches based on suspicious activities and discouraging illegal behavior on campus. He makes sure he and Bugsy are highly visible during breaks and lunch periods. They also patrol school neighborhoods before and after school to ensure everyone drives safely near the school. In addition to Ukiah High School, Officer Morse responds to calls at Pomolita Middle School and Ukiah’s public elementary schools.
Along with reducing the prevalence of drugs, Officer Morse also works to keep students safe by educating them about how to be smart online. Last year, he attended Yahoo’s digital safety training and was disturbed by the impact technology has had on some families.
He learned that victims of bullying are more likely to have suicidal thoughts than other young people, and he heard heart-breaking case studies that illustrated that point, like those at www.puresight.com/Real-Life-Stories/real-life-stories.html. If you’re interested in learning more about cyber bullying, you can go to www.ukiahpolice.com/hot-topics/cyber-bullying-how-to-protect-your-children. (If you go to ukiahpolice.com and search for bullying, you’ll find this and other articles of interest.)
Sometimes we—parents, school faculty, and police officers—focus so much on big dangers like drugs or fights, we forget we can make a difference by paying attention to the small stuff.
Research shows that school-age children are actually nine times more likely to sustain an unintentional injury—whether on the playground or in school—than to be the victim of violence while at school. In fact, it’s estimated that more than two million children ages 14 and under are injured in school-related accidents each year, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.
So, how can we prevent these accidents? Here are some safety tips from SAFE KIDS, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
1. Plan a walking route to school or the bus stop. Choose the most direct way with the fewest street crossings and, if possible, with intersections that have crossing guards. Walk the route with your child beforehand. Tell him or her to stay away from parks, vacant lots, fields, and other places where there aren’t many people around.
2. Teach your child never to talk to strangers or accept rides or gifts from strangers. Remember, a stranger is anyone you or your children don’t know well or don’t trust.
3. Teach your kids to obey all traffic signals, signs, and traffic officers—whether walking, biking, or riding the bus to school. Remind them to be extra careful in bad weather. If your child bikes to school, make sure he wears a helmet that meets acceptable safety standards (U.S. CPSC, Snell, ANSI, ASTM, or Canadian). Research indicates that a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent.
4. Teach children to arrive at the bus stop early, stay out of the street, wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before approaching the street, watch for cars, and avoid the driver’s blind spot. Remind your children to stay seated at all times and keep their heads and arms inside the bus while riding. When exiting the bus, children should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, exit from the front using the handrail to avoid falls, and cross the street at least 10 feet (or 10 giant steps) in front of the bus.
5. Be sure that your child knows his or her home phone number and address, your work phone number, and when to call 911 for emergencies.
6. Teach children proper playground behavior: no pushing, shoving, or crowding. Give your child some strategies for coping with bullies. They should not give in to a bully’s demands, but should simply walk away or tell the bully to stop. If the bullying continues, they should talk to the teacher or Officer Morse (the school resource officer).
I’ll put these tips on our website in case you’d like to share them or refer to them later. Remember, our school resource officer and all Ukiah police officers are here to help you and your children. If you have questions or concerns about safety, please ask us.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.