School Safety Tips

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By Grant Baldwin, PhD, MPH
Director, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Michele Huitric, MPH
Public Health Advisor, NCIPC, CDC 

David Sleet, PhD
Associate Director for Science, NCIPC, CDC 

The beginning of a new school year is a time of excitement and adjustment. Our children return to class rejuvenated by summer fun and ready to continue their learning. The ring of the bell on the first day of school marks many transitions. In order to prepare our children for the rigor of the classroom, we work hard to make sure they have what they need to excel. Besides the new clothing and a fresh supply of papers, pens, pencils, folders and other essential equipment, the start of a new school year is also a great time to refocus our attention on safety before, during and after school.  

During August and early September, 55 million children return to classrooms across the United States. Whether travelling by car, bus, bike, or walking, once a child leaves his or her home, safety becomes a concern. Injuries are far and away the most prevalent cause of death to all school-age children and youth in our nation. Children need to use seatbelts, cross the street safely, wear helmets when biking, take steps to form respectful relationships, and know how to avoid and reduce personal conflicts without violence. These are highlights among the many lifesaving prevention steps we need to take with our kids. 

Injury is also one of the most common health problems treated at schools. Approximately 10 to 25 percent of all child and adolescent injuries occur at school. Fatalities at school are rare — only about one in 400 fatal injuries to children 5 to 19 years old occur on school grounds. School-associated injuries are most likely to occur on playgrounds, particularly on climbing equipment, athletic fields and in gymnasia. Male students are injured 1.5 times more often than female students, and males are three times more likely than females to sustain injuries requiring hospitalization. Middle and high school students sustain more school injuries than elementary school students: 41 percent of students who are injured are 15 to 19 years of age, 31 percent are 11 to 14 years of age, and 28 percent are aged 5 to 10 years. 

CDC’s School Health Guidelines to Prevent Unintentional Injuries and Violence were designed to help state and local education agencies and schools promote safety. These guidelines are based on an extensive review of research, theory and current practice in unintentional injury, violence and suicide prevention; health education; and public health.

For more information and resources about school safety, including the guidelines mentioned above, visit here. When parents and educators work together, safety becomes a priority that benefits the entire community and enables our children to reach their full potential. By fulfilling our commitment to safety, schools can be a safe haven for learning and healthy development.