Your school should be giving you a form to fill out which asks who has permission to pick up your child. This is called a release form. If they don’t insist on listing the people to whom you give permission to pick up your child. Put down their address, phone number and relationship to you and your child. Every one of your child’s teachers should get a copy of this release. Children should never be released without looking at the person’s driver’s license. The school must make sure the picture matches the face and the name matches the name on the form. Make sure that every possible pick up person is listed to avoid any mistakes.
Talk with the principal about the school’s policies of releasing children. Most schools in which I have been in the last few years have a sign that says “Please check in with the office secretary.” However the office secretary may have gone to the restroom. Let’s face it there are ways to get into a building.
You may have an ex-husband who is five states away. Did you put him on the release form? Many parents forget to put the estranged parent down because there has been no contact. This is a mistake. Parents for many reasons show up after years to claim their child. If, let’s say dad, walks into your child’s classroom there is a chance your child will be happy to see him. She obviously recognizes him so the teacher may think that it is alright to release her to this man. It isn’t alright. You can prevent this by taking a simple step of signing this form.
We have other situations as well. We have the call from mom who says she is going to be late at work and that her sister-in-law who isn’t on the release will pick up Jack. Is this alright? No it isn’t. There are a couple of reasons why it isn’t alright. Why didn’t she put her sister-in-law on the release form to begin with?
Another option for parents is to send in with your child a signed release. This would say, “Aunt Sally, my sister, will be picking up Jack today (October 10, 2006) and for the rest of the weeks while I recover from surgery.” Even though Aunt Sally may be on the release form it is still helpful to the school to have in writing this change of pickup. It keeps everyone protected. That’s the second best option.
Does the school really know that it is mom calling? There is a way around this that some schools take. Mom is called at work and asked if she did indeed give permission for Aunt Sally to pick up Jack. That’s a third option.
I have been in situations where I would not allow the child to leave with a person not on the release form. This would happen if I got a message that Aunt Sally was picking up Jack today. I would try mom at work and at all the numbers she had put on the release. In some cases I could not get in touch with mom or the child’s guardian.
You may be wondering what happens in these cases. What does a school do if the Principal or Social Worker can’t get in touch with mom or mom just cannot pick up Jack on time? Who will stay with him? That’s a very good question. I worked with young children. We had a policy that if no one on a release got Jack or if we couldn’t with 100% certainly ensure that we were talking to mom on the phone, then at 6:00p.m. the Department of Social Services would be called. This may seem extreme but if your child has been snatched by an ex-boyfriend you know that extreme measures keep your child safe.
We now have your child safe at school. I just want to add a few more comments that may or may not be new to you. When my children were young we had a secret word. If someone stopped to pick up my child whom she may have known but perhaps not well and was told that I said to get her my child could ask that person what the secret word is. So it would go like this: I call my friend and say “It’s pouring out. Could you pick up Jane as she starts walking home? The secret word is ‘safety.’ Jane asks your friend for the secret word; your friend knows it and off they safely go.
Schools now do ‘stranger danger’ programs but go over it yourself without terrifying your child. We think we know our child will not go with a man who says “Please help me find my puppy” but television exposes show differently. Do not put your child’s name on his or her sweatshirt or back pack. As cute as it might look the stranger has an immediate advantage.
Finally if you have $200 for a Kevlar vest or Kevlar backpack they can be bought. Just put the terms in your browser and you’ll find some companies that are making/selling these items.
Have a safe school year.