School safety is a serious issue these days. With the increase in school shootings and invasions, it is important for students to know and practice a crisis response. In addition to preparing for large-scale crisis events, it is also important for children to understand general safety and emergency preparedness.
In some schools, students are given roles as student-to-student safety officers. Including the students in daily safety routines creates a safety awareness and a healthy dose of responsibility not only for themselves, but their classmates.
For as long as he can remember, Celso Amaya-Ventura has looked forward to being in fifth grade so he could join the safety patrol. His reading buddy in kindergarten was a patroller, as were the older kids who sometimes played with him at recess. The students in the neon green belts seemed to be everywhere at his Arlington County school — in the hallways, on his bus, at the front door.
“They are kind of like the leaders of the school,” Celso said.
Last week, it was finally his turn. Celso’s mother dropped off the 10-year-old on the first day of school in his new blue shirt — “the fanciest I had,” he said — so he could collect his belt and get in position for his first official job with the McKinley Elementary School safety patrol.
But the “Orange” bus was late that day, and Celso was left waiting on the curb until the morning bell rang. He had to go to class before he could escort the first-graders to their classrooms. “I didn’t get to do my duty,” he said.
Celso is taking part in a rite of passage that’s been shared by millions of children across the country for nearly a century — that early taste of authority and military ritual that’s known as the safety patrol.
More than 600,000 students in 32,000 schools nationwide are members of the safety patrol, according to AAA, which organizes the programs in partnership with schools and local law enforcement agencies. Participation is particularly high in the Washington region.
Fairfax County has as many as 10,000 patrol members each year. And in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Arlington counties, nearly every elementary school has a safety patrol, said Joe Beddick, manager for safety services for the AAA Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education.
“Sometimes, we think, ‘Will this ever stop being the cool thing to be?’?” said Kyra Wohlford, a fifth-grade teacher at McKinley and a former Arlington patroller. “It never has. It’s a tradition that’s lived on and on.”
AAA created school safety patrols in the 1920s to promote pedestrian safety amid increasing traffic.