Safety in Jewish Schools

How Parents Can Help
Rabbi Zev Roth
Keeping our children safe at school is on everyone’s mind.
In light of the recent rise in frightening attacks on Jewish schools and places of worship, every parent is rightfully concerned. How can we help foster the safest school environment possible for our children, staff, and all campus visitors?

Here is a short list of four areas to keep in mind whenever you make a visit to a school campus.

“If you see something, say something” 

This common phrase is repeated at every security seminar, and for good reason; it is both powerful and simple. All it takes is one attentive parent, whether on a carpool line, attending a school event, or even just passing by the school, to mention a suspicious person or object to school personnel to potentially save many lives. 

The opposite is also true. All it takes to needlessly put many lives at risk is for one person to be inattentive to a suspicious person or object or for an attentive person to notice someone or something out of place and not say anything.

If you see anyone who seems out of place, taking photographs or video, seems threatening, a strange or abandoned object, someone making repeated passes by the school – please, SAY SOMETHING! Tell any of our private Security guards, or tell a school administrator without delay. Don’t get home 25 minutes later and then let the school know what you saw earlier. That is 25 minutes too late. 

Don’t be afraid that you are bothering or distracting school staff. Speak up!

Be responsive to security personnel

Security staff is here to protect all students, staff, Rabbeim, teachers, therapists, coaches, parents and the many visitors on campus. While they may help to direct traffic, they are not ‘traffic cops.’ Their control of deliveries, vendors, traffic flow, etc, is really a function of their being able to know who is on campus, and who should not be. 

For example, if you are new to campus and security is not yet familiar with you, allow them to perform their standard security check. Answer their questions. If they request to look in your vehicle, let them. This is both for campus safety as well as your own safety. If you are sending someone in your place for a carpool dropoff or pickup, make sure you have informed the appropriate division office. A person unknown to security (visiting grandparent, a nanny, a friend, aunt, uncle, cousin, etc.) who is making a pickup of a child puts security in the position of assuming that the pickup may be unwarranted, as unlikely as that might be, and the student would not be released until it could be verified with a parent. 

When parents are responsive to instructions from security personnel, they are helping to keep the campus safe. 

Follow official administration communications

Paying attention to any official notifications sent your way,  especially during a fast-moving or potentially security-related situation, helps the Jewish school administration immensely by enabling them to direct accurate and timely information to the intended recipients. 

It’s hardly news to say that social media has the power to spread information with a speed the world has never seen. It also has the power to distort, exaggerate, misinterpret, and cause panic with that same speed. 

Please do not partake in the spreading of rumors on social media. If you have any questions, ask the school! Do not send your security concerns to a group chat.  We have seen recently, through an abundance of communications from very well-meaning and concerned parents, the degree to which confusion or exaggeration can quickly take hold.  The only messages you should be sharing are the official notifications from the school. By doing this you will be helping those around you (literally and digitally speaking) to tune in to the correct messages, thereby fostering a safer environment for all.

Every vehicle should be school-identifiable 

Make it easier for security staff to recognize your car! The more identifiable your car is to security, the less time is wasted inspecting your vehicle. Once security is familiar with the vehicles of the parent body, they can more aptly focus on the unfamiliar cars trying to enter the school campus. These cars will be stopped and drivers will be questioned before being safely let into campus grounds. 

There are a few different ways Jewish schools can help make your vehicle(s) identifiable to Security & staff.  Transponder stickers or magnets with the school logo are two examples of this. 

Every single parent is a member of the security team. When everyone stays attentive, communicates concerns quickly and clearly to school personnel, listens to official communications, and is responsive to Security direction, we are taking a strong step together towards a safer school.

Rabbi Zev Roth, COO at Yeshiva Toras Chaim Toras Emes, can be reached with questions or comments at zroth@ytcte.org.