Health & Safety: Is my child
safe at school?
National statistics continue to show that children are much
more likely to be victims of violence in their own home or
neighborhood than in school. But when shootings or other violent
episodes do occur in schools around the country, parents can't
help but wonder "Is my school doing enough to protect kids?"
And the truth is that BH-BL staff ask themselves the same
question all the time: Are we doing enough? Have we hit the
right balance between having schools that are open, friendly
places to learn and having schools that are safe?
More than ever before, safety is an underlying theme in
everything schools do. The past decade has seen a number of new
state and federal safety mandates, plus higher parental
expectations regarding safety.
View the district's Project Save Plan
Here's a list of many of the things we do at Burnt
Hills-Ballston Lake to ensure the safety of students and staff.
- The district Safety Committee meets monthly to evaluate
all aspects of school life that relate to safety. Whether
the concern is air quality, construction safety, playground
safety, or preparing for a flu epidemic, having a committee
of teachers, parents, custodians and other staff take a
comprehensive look at these issues together has been very
beneficial. Several of the improvements listed below grew
out of Safety Committee recommendations.
- School staff wear photo ID badges daily, and under state
law, all new staff (even substitutes) are fingerprinted and
checked for criminal records, particularly any record of
- During the school day, exterior doors are kept locked
from the outside except for the main school entrance. All
substitutes, volunteers and visitors entering the building
must sign in and wear a temporary ID badge during school
- School entrances have been renovated to improve staff
members' view of those entering their building and nearly
all now have security vestibules. Our schools
also have security cameras at their entrance or other specific
area. The high school has hall monitors who sign in
visitors. The high school employs security monitors with law
enforcement experience who help supervise entrances,
hallways, parking lots and sporting events.
- Parking lot improvements for greater safety have
included adding speed bumps, better lighting, and security
cameras. At Charlton Heights the parking lot was completely
redesigned to separate bus and car traffic for safety.
- High school pupils who drive in an unsafe manner at
school have their parking privileges taken away. Students
who commit vandalism are made to pay for repairs to the
school property they damaged. Teens who break the law at
school are turned over to the police. This kind of firm
response to illegal or unsafe behavior is a deterrent that
sends a strong message to our students.
- All students receive a copy of their school's Student
Handbook, which includes a Code of Conduct spelling out
rules for appropriate behavior and the consequences of
inappropriate behavior. (Note: for online copies of these,
click on the specific school, then Student Handbook.)
- Every 11 months, the fire marshal and buildings and
grounds supervisor perform a detailed room-by-room
inspection of all schools and other district buildings for
hazards. Their reports are shared with custodians,
principals and the Board of Education, and any needed
corrective actions are taken.
- Protecting students' health and safety is what our five
school nurses do all day. For instance, procedures to
safeguard children with life-threatening allergies were
updated with help from parents.
- BH-BL bus routes are written to reduce the number of
children who must cross a road to enter or exit a bus. This
is just one detail in the Transportation Department's
comprehensive emphasis on safety. Other examples of bus
safety practices are listed in the district calendar and at
BH-BL Bus Policies.
- As required by law, school computers use filtering
software that protects pupils from inappropriate online
- Starting in elementary school, pupils are taught how to
keep their bodies healthy and how to say "no" to drugs,
smoking and other unsafe (though sometimes popular)
- Teachers and teacher assistants receive training in how
to recognize troubled pupils or those who may be at risk.
Each school has a social worker and a Pupil Assistance Team
to coordinate help for such pupils. Both secondary schools
are working in particular to reduce their number of
"disengaged" students by helping these students form a
strong and healthy connection with at least one adult at
school. This is a key strategy for avoiding both school
drop-outs and school violence.
- As required by law, students have 8 fire drills a year
and 4 lock-down (everyone goes into the nearest room, locks
the door and waits for further instructions on the public
address system) drills a year. The latter would be used to
move everyone out of harm's way while a suspected threat
inside the building (such as from an intruder) was
evaluated. They also practice situations called a school
"lock-out" (no one may enter or leave the building but
classes go on as usual indoors).
They also practice situations called a school "lock-out" (no
one may enter or leave the building but classes go on as
- School staff use and practice the same Incident Command
System of crisis management that is used by police and fire
officials for better communication and cooperation during an
emergency. We also follow the safety and security
recommendations of the State Education Department related to
federal Homeland Security Alert Levels.
- BH-BL staff receive advice, training and safety updates
from the Capital Region BOCES Risk Management Service.
Thanks to the speed of email and the BOCES concept of local
school districts working together on shared needs, BH-BL
administrators are often informed about possible safety
threats before these threats become public knowledge, which
enables us to be better prepared.
- Copies of the Safety Data Sheets for all
potentially hazardous substances used in each school can be
viewed by contacting the school principal. Also available
for public perusal in the district business office are the
district's emergency preparedness plan, asbestos management
plan, annual fire inspection reports, and the results of
testing for radon in the air and lead in the water.
Most importantly, our schools work hard to create an
atmosphere in which everyone is responsible for safety and
everyone will be listened to.
No one wants schools that feel like a prison, but students
and parents and all staff need to be safety conscious and to
speak up whenever they spot a potential hazard. Continuing this
dialogue can help us stay safe as our community grows and our
society changes in future years.
As headlines about school shootings or other violence on
occasion remind us, we really are all in this together.