ISNA Reaches Out to Community with School Safety Tips

Once again student safety was headlined, as a young girl from Philadelphia was allegedly picked up from her classroom by her mother, who was clad in niqab (face covering hijab), but it was NOT her mother. Fortunately, the little girl was found after the abduction, but the school broke its own protocol for releasing the student when the abductor came directly to the classroom and pronounced that the girl was “checked out” already by the main office.

This should make every teacher cringe, because some parents feel it is their right to trod on school personnel without regard to established protocol, and they can be downright rude and aggressive to the point that could make an unassertive teacher or office staff member back down, jeopardizing a child’s welfare.

Most schools do have signs and procedures that direct parents to the office for proper check out procedures during school hours, but parents must abide by them. Also, the administration must make it clear to personnel that there should be no variance from operational procedures.

Muslim parents who have children in public schools should realize that non-Muslims may feel intimidated and unsure about how to deal with aspects of our culture. The niqab can make non-Muslims feel that they do not want to offend women who are attired in it, so they may be prone to avoid confrontation and be less observant of protocol. The best way to mitigate this is to be an involved parent; know your children’s teachers and let them know you.

Every school has likely had the situation when a divorce has resulted in a custodial situation, and one parent is excluded from receiving their own child by court mandate. This can crop up during the course of a school term at any time. Schools must have procedures that inform those who may be responsible for children in this state, and every school release must be coordinated through the main office. Teachers should be informed only from an office staff member that the student is ready for release, not the parent.

Given the heightened awareness lately on student safety, what can parents do?

  • Come prepared with official identification and expect the school to ask for it and record it prior to releasing students during the school day.
  • Comply with up-to-date emergency notification cards that provide the names of people you give as authorized to pick up your child in case you are unable.
  • Get to know the people who care for your children at school; get involved!
  • Be patient and polite if school personnel are doing their jobs, and they ask for identity confirmation. Follow school procedures.
  • Contact the principal of the school if you think improvements could be made to your school’s security. Parents are great assets as “extra eyes.”
  • Report anything suspicious and be aware, especially during school drop off and dismissal.

Schools are special communities, and we owe diligence in protecting all children. Our students are precious and require safe, stable environments to support their learning. Understanding the necessity of parent support and protection is vital to their future.
You can learn more about Keeping Our Student Safe by clicking here to hear our Webinar from this month, hosted by our writer Susan Labadi.

More on Susan Labadi

Susan Labadi is a member of the ISNA Education Forum Planning Committee, an Illinois registered Professional Development Provider, through her company Genius School, Inc. (www.geniusschoolonline.com), and serves on accreditation teams for AdvancEd. She is also the Project Coordinator for the American Halal Association, and is a regular contributor to articles of HalalConnect and Islamic Horizons. Her expertise in educational leadership and teaching come from nearly ten years with Islamic Foundation School in Villa Park, IL, and a Masters degree in Teaching from National-Louis University. Prior to a career in Education, she designed security systems for commercial and residential clients for ADT Security Systems.