Q: As summer draws to a close, back-to-school season is in full effect. I feel safety should be a priority for every family as children return to classrooms this fall. It is important for us, as parents, to stay up to date on the proper safety precautions and share this information with our children to keep them safe throughout the school year. Will you provide some safety tips?

A: Whether children walk, ride their bicycle or take the bus to school, it is extremely important that they take proper safety precautions. Here are some tips to share with your children to ensure their safety when traveling to school:

• Walk to school with a group of kids and always have a responsible adult with you;

• Always walk on the sidewalk if one is available;

• The safest place to cross is at a street corner or intersection;

• If you are 10 years old or younger, you need to cross the street with an adult. You should not cross by yourself;

• Before you step off the curb to cross the street, stop and look all ways to see if cars are coming;

• When no cars are coming, it is safe for you and an adult to cross. But look left-right-left as you do it, and hold the adult’s hand;

• Walk, don’t run, especially from in between parked cars. This gives time for drivers to see you before you enter the roadway. Running also makes you more likely to fall in the street;

• Always wear your helmet when riding your bicycle;

• Riding at night can be dangerous. If you have to ride your bicycle at night, you should ride with an adult. By law, you must have a white light on the front of your bicycle and a red reflector on the back;

• When boarding, or disembarking a bus, be sure the bus driver can see you and you can see the bus driver;

• Never walk behind the bus;

• When on the bus, find a seat and sit down. Loud talking or other noise can distract the bus driver and is not allowed;

• Never put head, arms or hands out of the window.

Another thing, be aware of school bullying. Many kids are affected by this, and it can have serious consequences. Bullying among children has been happening for many years, but only recently has it been brought to the forefront of our society’s consciousness. Tragedies in schools across the country have led to increased public awareness and scientific research into the psychological damage caused by bullying.

Bully victimization has been found to be related to lower self-esteem, higher rates of depression, loneliness and anxiety. Victims have higher school absenteeism rates, report experiencing poorer general health and are more likely to have suicidal thoughts than their non-bullied peers. Bullying also can have long-term psychological effects.

Here are some warning signs:

• Dislikes or has lost interest in school work;

• Have few, if any, friends. Appears sad, anxious or moody when talking about school;

• Complains of headaches, stomach aches;

• Has unexplained cuts, bruises and/or scratches;

• Appears afraid of going back to school;

• Returns from school with torn, damaged or missing articles of clothing, books or belongings;

• Has trouble sleeping and/or has frequent nightmares.

If you see any of these warning signs, immediately ask the child if he/she is becoming the victim of bullying at school. You should also schedule a meeting with one of the school counselors as quickly as possible. If you have any further questions or concerns, contact one of our Santa Monica Police Department’s school resource officers:

• Officer Carlos Jaen

Carlos.Jaen@smgov.net

(310) 863-8407

• Officer Erika Aklufi

Erika.Aklufi@smgov.net

(310) 458-8943

Q: My child takes the bus to school. How safe is it to ride the bus to school?

A: School buses are one of the safest forms of transportation on the road today. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, riding a bus to school is 13 times safer than riding in a passenger vehicle, and 10 times safer than walking to school. The reality of school bus safety is that more children are hurt outside the bus than inside as passengers. Most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related crashes are pedestrians, 4 to 7 years old, who are hit by the bus or by motorists illegally passing a stopped school bus. For this reason, it is necessary to know the proper laws and procedures for sharing the road safely with school buses. You can contact your child’s school administrators to receive a copy of their pick-up/drop-off plan if available.

All 50 states have a law making it illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children. School buses use yellow flashing lights to alert motorists that they are prepared to stop to load or unload children. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm signal to motorists that the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off the bus

All 50 states require that traffic in both directions stop on undivided roadways when students are entering or exiting a school bus. While state laws vary on what is required on a divided roadway, in all cases, traffic behind the school bus (traveling in the same direction) must stop.

The area 10 feet around a school bus is where children are in the most danger of being hit. Stop your car far enough from the bus to allow children the necessary space to safely enter and exit the bus. Be alert. Children are unpredictable. Children walking to or from their bus are usually very comfortable with their surroundings. This makes them more likely to take risks, ignore hazards or fail to look both ways when crossing the street.

Never pass a school bus on the right. It is illegal and could have tragic consequences.

This column was prepared by Neighborhood Resource Officer Richard Carranza (Beat 1: coastal, beach and Santa Monica Pier areas). He can be reached at (424) 200-0681 or richard.carranza@smgov.net.