LEWISTOWN - The summer season is coming to a close, and with the start of a new school year coming this week for many area children, the safety of students is something to consider.
Mifflin County Regional Police Department Student Resource Officer, Cpl. Robert Haines Jr., said kids will be safer if they and their parents abide by a certain set of rules.
"These rules are for online use, school bus safety, stranger danger and watching for pedestrians," Haines said. "Whether the student is starting kindergarten, finishing high school or are away at college, parents are encouraged to make themselves aware of potential dangers and teach their students and children how to stay safe."
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
The bus stop at Strodes Mills Elementary School sits empty Friday evening. Although quiet and empty now, the bus stop will be bustling with activity Thursday morning when students arrive for the first day of school in the Mifflin County School District.
Haines said teaching children how to be safe online could stop the student from being the victim of a cyberbully or even becoming one. He said parents should take charge and establish guidelines for electronic devices, monitor what the student is doing online, and communicate with their student about protecting themselves and respecting others online.
"As children become reacquainted with their friends and classmates, they will continue school conversations online.," he said. "These conversations could include teasing, humiliating or harassing others, talking with your student about limiting what they share, including photos, and take steps to help them be safe."
The beginning of school is also a time when children are at increased risk for injury from pedestrian, bicycle, school bus and motor vehicle accidents because there are more kids on the road each morning and afternoon. Haines said parents should remind and teach young students riding on school busses about safety tips. Students should walk to the bus stop and arrive about five minutes before the bus arrives and if the student has to cross in front of the bus, have the students always cross far enough in front so that they are seen by the bus driver.
"Respect the danger zone which surrounds all sides of the bus," Haines said. "The danger zone is 10 feet wide on all sides. Students should remain 10 steps away from the bus to be out of the danger zone and where the driver can see them."
Haines said that students should not play with the emergency exits and that large instruments or sports equipment should not block either the emergency exits or the aisle. Also, when walking to the bus, students should walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk the student should walk on the left facing traffic.
Haines said students, parents and other motorists traveling in school zones should be mindful of the increased traffic, both from busses and those walking. Everyone should allow for extra time to reach a destination.
"Knowing and obeying the law with regard to stopping at school buses loading and unloading children (is important)," Haines explained. "Be on the lookout for school zone signals and always obey the speed limits."
Crashes and accidents can also occur while teen drivers are going to and from school. Haines said parents should require seat belt use by the driver and all passengers.
"Parents should limit the number of passengers and can even set rules for eating and drinking in the car," Haines said. "No cellphone conversations or texting should also be a rule because it will help to limit driver distraction."
The other thing Haines said parents should do, especially with younger students, is to teach about how to recognize and report suspicious activity. Students may notice something out of place at their school or on the transportation they take to school, but they may not be sure what to do about it. Haines said students should go straight to an adult or older students who can call 911 directly. He also said students should be taught and reminded to not touch suspicious objects.
"We are operating under the motto 'see something, say something,'" he said.
As summer draws to a close, back to school safety should be a priority for every family. Haines stressed the importance of staying up-to-date on the proper safety precautions no matter what age students are and contining to share safety information with them throughout the school year to keep them safe.