AG Cooper offers tips for back to school safety

Published 6:30 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2014

CHARLOTTE — Attorney General Roy Cooper last week offered tips to help parents and teachers get children back to school safely and ready to learn as the traditional school year begins across North Carolina.

Cooper today visited Westerly Hills Academy in Charlotte to talk to students, teachers and administrators about school safety on the first day of the traditional school year for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools and many other school systems.

“Students, schools, families, law enforcement and communities working together must all work together to ensure a safe and successful school year,” Cooper said. “A few simple steps can give parents and teachers some peace of mind so they can focus on helping kids learn.”

Cooper’s office offers the following safety tips:


  • Ask about the school’s current safety plan. The plan should include how the school would work with local law enforcement and other first responders in the event of an emergency such as a school shooting. Ask if teachers have been trained and what you should do as a parent if a crisis occurs at school.
  • Ask how employees are screened. Make sure your child’s school, day care and after school activities screen their employees including background checks. Visit and get to know the people who spend time with your children.
  • Consider carefully the questions a school asks about student privacy. For example, whether you’re OK with having a photo of your child on the school website or taken by a news organization. If the school doesn’t ask, inquire about its policy.
  • Update your list of emergency contacts. Give a current copy to your child’s school and any after-school programs. Make sure that everyone on the list knows key information, such as how to get to your child’s school, your pediatrician’s name and number, alarm codes for your house, etc.
  • Ask the school to notify you if your child doesn’t arrive at school. Let the school know who is authorized to pick up your child. Make sure your children know who would pick them up in case of an emergency or if you aren’t able to.
  • Make sure young children know their full name, parent’s name, address and phone number. You may also want to consider getting an ID card from the NC Division of Motor Vehicles for your child to carry.
  • Protect your child’s identifying information from strangers. Identity thieves will use information like a child’s Social Security Number to open credit lines without parents’ knowledge. Only give identifying information when necessary, and when you do, ask how it will be used and protected.
  • Talk to your kids about abuse of alcohol, prescription drugs and street drugs. Tell your kids how these substances can affect them and discuss what to do if they feel pressured to use drugs or alcohol. For older kids, discuss how to get out of dangerous situations they may face, for example if their ride home drinks or takes drugs. Parents and teachers are on the front lines for spotting addiction, so know the warning signs, such as students who withdraw from relationships, lose interest in school and extracurriculars, and/or have unexplained changes in mood.
  • Teach your kids about how to stay safe from strangers, even on the Internet. Set ground rules for Internet use, agree on websites that are OK to visit and explain what is and is not appropriate to do or view online. Easy to use tools that can help, including a video and resource guide, are available free from Cooper’s office at
  • Think carefully about social media use. Consider the age and maturity of your children before deciding to let them use social networking sites. If you decide to allow it, read the site’s safety tips, utilize its privacy settings, and provide extra supervision. Discuss how problems can arise if people share inappropriate messages and embarrassing photos or respond to scams. If younger children use in-school social networking, make sure they know what terms and information are appropriate or not appropriate to share online with classmates and teachers.
  • Talk to your kids about mobile phone use. Let kids know that safety rules still apply if they use their phones to go online. Teens also need to know about the dangers of texting or talking on the phone while driving. According to the National Safety Council, drivers who use their cell phones are four times more likely to crash.
  • Talk to school staff about Internet safety and privacy, too. Computers can be a wonderful learning tool, and many children now have access to the Internet in classrooms and school libraries. Ask your child’s school how they protect their students when they go online.

Encourage your children to talk to you about anything that makes them feel scared, threatened, or uncomfortable. Remind your kids not to condone or participate in bullying behavior. Teach your kids which trustworthy adults (such as grandparents, teachers, school resource officers, a neighbor you know and trust) they can also turn to when they need help.