A bunch of kids going back to school with the words, "back to school safety tips."

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Summer has ended and children are heading back to school. Between worrying about textbooks, upcoming exams, career or college paths for high schoolers, and getting rid of first-day jitters, back-to-school safety is often overlooked.

This year though, back-to-school safety now also includes steps to avoid illness from the Coronavirus in addition to the normal safety guidelines. Following these tips from your school injury attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. can ensure that your child has a safe and successful school year.

Keeping Safe In School Zones

Many parents choose to drive their children to school. Other individuals have to pass by school zones to get to work or to their daily appointments. When going through or approaching a school zone, remember to keep these things in mind:

Always pay attention to posted speed limits. School zones are under special legal protection, which means additional fines for speeding through them. During the summer, school zone speed limits may not be in effect, but during the school year, the flashing caution lights mean that the posted school zone speed limit is in effect. 

Additionally, do not pass other vehicles while driving in a school zone. This can lead to an accident and often means you are driving too quickly. Along the same line, changing lanes and making U-turns while in a school zone can be extremely dangerous and lead to an accident. It is best to keep going through the school zone, and if you need to turn around, wait until you can pull into a neighborhood or after you have safely exited. 

School busses frequently drive through school zones and may have to make stops to pick up or drop off students. Never drive by a school bus that has stopped to load or unload students. If you see the flashing red lights or the extended stop sign while you are on the same side of the road or there is no median between you and the bus, come to a complete stop. Failing to follow this rule could lead to a dangerous collision with students or hefty fines.

Some children may walk to school, and crossing guards may be stationed to help those children safely cross the street. While some of these crossing guards may be hired by the school, others are volunteers. No matter which, Texas State Law requires all drivers to heed the signals of the crossing guards. Wait until the crossing guard gives you the signal before driving past, and always look both ways before driving to ensure that no more children are present or trying to cross.

Finally, using your cellphone while driving is never a good idea, but it is an especially bad idea around a school zone. Children may run out into the street, another vehicle may stop, or you may miss the signal from a school bus or crossing guard. If you are on your phone, these missed things can lead to a horrific accident. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car and pedestrian accidents.

Safety Tips for Students Riding Bikes to School

A guy in casual clothes is cycling down the road in the evening

If your child is riding their bike to school, make sure they know the following safety tips:

Remember to contact your child’s school to ask about their bike policy. For safety reasons, some schools place age restrictions on student bike riders.

Additionally, always make sure your child is wearing a proper helmet. This means making sure the helmet is the correct size. If your child has been in an accident, whether colliding with another student or falling off the bike, make sure you get the helmet replaced.

Helmets take a lot of beatings over time and they may become damaged after being involved in an accident, reducing their effectiveness for the next time. A proper helmet can reduce the risk of a serious head injury by as much as 85 percent.

Make sure your child fully understands all traffic laws. Remember, the rules that apply to vehicles also apply to cyclists. Bikes also have additional rules for safety reasons, such as staying on the right side of the road, using hand signals for turning and stopping, and staying on designated bike paths when available. 

You and your child should go over the safest routes to and from school. Practice with your children until they are able to safely demonstrate traffic awareness. If possible, try to ensure that your child is riding alongside other bicycle riders. There is safety in numbers. 

Safety On the Playground

While minor injuries are not uncommon on school playgrounds and risks are well-known, that doesn’t mean that children or their parents cannot get compensation for negligence. Knowing the following can help you keep your child safe and know when you may have a case against the school if your child does get hurt:

Whenever the school allows students to play on the playground during school hours, a supervisor must be present. This supervisor can be a teacher or another school staff member. This individual needs to be vigilant, ensuring that all children are abiding by the playground rules and are not engaging in dangerous activities, such as throwing rocks or using equipment incorrectly.

All playground equipment needs to be properly maintained and surrounded by shock-absorbing material. This material needs to be at least nine inches thick to ensure that students who fall are cushioned to reduce the risk of serious injury. These protective surfaces should also extend at least six feet in all directions around the playground equipment. When it comes to swings, the protective equipment height should be twice the height of the set. All spaces that can potentially trap a child, such as ladder rungs, need to have spaces that measure less than three and a half inches or more than nine inches. All elevated surfaces, such as ramps, need to have guardrails to prevent falls.

COVID-19 Precautions at School

The most important thing you can do to protect your child from COVID-19 is to have an open honest discussion with them. Ensure that they fully understand what they can do to protect themselves such as social distancing, wearing a mask, and properly washing their hands. 

Make sure your child knows that they need to come to you whenever they are not feeling well. This includes seemingly minor ailments such as a sore throat or runny nose. If your child is not feeling well, keep them at home. School is important but nothing is more important than the health and safety of your child.

Maintain open communication between you, the school, and your child’s teacher. Cooperation, understanding, and being able to express concerns are all important parts of ensuring the success of your student and their safety. There is no such thing as a dumb question or a silly concern when it comes to your child’s wellbeing. If you are unsure or uncomfortable about something, speak up.

Additional Safety Precautions for Your Student

  • If your child is walking to school, make sure they go straight there and straight home.
  • Make sure your child knows to use sidewalks when available and to always check both ways before crossing the street.
  • Make sure your child understands that they should never get into the vehicle with anyone, even if they know them, without your permission.
  • Make sure your child knows not to participate in horseplay on the bus.
  • Children should never shout or distract the bus driver. 

What Should I Do If My Child Was Hurt At School?

School injury cases can be difficult due to the laws protecting schools and staff from being sued. However, this protection does not apply if negligence resulted in your child’s accident. If your child was injured due to the negligence of school staff, then you may be entitled to monetary compensation for damages and medical expenses. To further explore your options, contact the dedicated attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. Our team can help you navigate the difficult process of pursuing a case against a school system by gathering the necessary evidence to strengthen your claim.