ARLINGTON, Va. – The start to the school year is looking different, with students beginning the year in a distance learning format. The Police Department typically marks the start of the academic year by reinforcing transportation safety tips to ensure that our roadways are safely shared with students heading back to school. With the shift to distance learning, we’re sharing tips to help students stay safe at home and online.
The Department’s School Resource Officer Unit is preparing for a safe, but socially distant start to the academic year for all students. While they won’t see students each day in the classrooms and hallways, SROs are still working with school administrators to ensure the safety of students and staff while building relationships vital to public safety.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and closure of schools in March 2020, the SRO’s have remained active in our community. Many of the SRO’s, as well as members of the Community Outreach Teams, are out on two wheels to meet community members where they are: along trails and bike lanes.
The Department’s Bike Patrol officers ride along County parks, trails, bike lanes and other key areas to provide a visible police presence, engage with members of the community, promote safety, and aid those who may be out walking and cycling. Bike Patrol offers an opportunity to educate community members and provides a unique perspective on transportation safety challenges within the community. Bike Patrol officers complete specialized training to ensure officers are prepared to safely respond to incidents, keep their bikes operational, and maintain the public’s safety while out in the community.
General Safety Tips for Students
While it’s important to continue practicing physical distancing, we recognize that there are times when students will be out and about in the community. Back-to-school is an opportune time to remind students about important steps that can help keep them safe. Parents and guardians are also encouraged to role-play possible situations with students and discuss personal safety and awareness tips.
- Know their address, telephone number and how to contact a parent or guardian.
- Remain aware of their surroundings and limit the use of devices that may distract them.
- Avoid engaging with or answering questions from strangers.
- Report immediately to a trusted adult if something occurs that makes them feel unsafe.
Tips for Staying Safe at Home
Students participating in full-time distance learning are spending more time at home. Before the start to the new academic year, parents and guardians are encouraged to discuss precautions that can be taken at home to help ensure a safe environment to live and learn.
Tips for staying safe at home this school year:
- Review the guidelines for leaving children at home without an adult present from the Department of Human Services’ Child and Family Services division.
- Make sure your child understands who to call in case of fire, police, or medical incidents. Children should know how to dial 911 in case of emergencies or 703-558-2222 for all other non-life-threatening public safety situations.
- Ensure your child knows of a trusted adult nearby—whether a friend, neighbor or family member – in the event they need help during the day in the absence of a parent or guardian.
- Check to ensure your home has working smoke alarms and test them monthly to ensure their functionality. Additionally, have an escape plan in place in the event of a fire in your home.
- Request a free Home Safety Inspection through the Arlington County Fire Department.
- Consider CPR training for members of your household, which could be potentially lifesaving for your child or a family member..
- Discuss with your child the implications of answering the door to strangers, and what to do if someone comes to the door of your residence who they don’t know, or who is not expected.
Internet Safety Tips for Students
The internet is an important educational tool for students, but online access also comes with risks. Always have open dialogue about electronic device use and internet safety, and ensure students know how to recognize risky situations online and when to alert a trusted adult. With students resuming online learning activities, establish guidelines around the use of electronic devices and the internet.
Remind students of these safety tips:
- Don’t reveal personal information including home address, phone number, or school name and location.
- Don’t advertise when you’re not going to be home.
- Don’t interact with or accept requests from strangers online.
- Never agree to get together in person with anyone online without parent approval and/or supervision.
- Review with your student the implications of posting comments or images involving topics such as threats, illicit drugs, or nudity. Report threatening or inappropriate posts or pictures right away.
- Consider limiting electronic device and internet usage to shared spaces within your home.