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The start of a new school year

SHARE The start of a new school year

Students who attend school year-round have been back in school for several weeks now. The vast majority of Utah students will resume classes the week of Aug. 28.

As any Utah family can attest, the start of a school year is far more involved than simply going back-to-school shopping. There is registration, school fees and social adjustments both for kindergartners who enter school for the first time and older students making transitions into junior high and high school.

It's the season of blue jeans stiff in the knee, blisters from new shoes and stiff backs from carrying heavy backpacks. It's a time for motorists to be particularly attentive to students walking to and from school; observing posted speed limits in school zones and exercising care around school buses. It's also a time when parents and students renew their concerns about school safety.

For the most part, students are safer during the hours they are in school than they are at any other time. Yet high-profile school shootings in recent years have tempered students', educators' and school administrators' sense of security.

Because of incidents of school violence, school safety is at the forefront of every educator's mind. Since the massacre at Columbine High School, educators and school administrators have received additional training about safety, there is improved communication between the education community and law enforcement, and students themselves are encouraged to raise concerns they believe will fester into greater problems if not they are not addressed in a timely fashion.

Safe schools require communication and action. School administrators and teachers must continually strive to create learning atmospheres in which students feel comfortable. Not only should they feel free to raise valid concerns, they should be confident that the adults in their lives will respond with action when appropriate. Educators need to keep an eye on their students to ensure they don't slip through the cracks.

School safety is not just the responsibility of schools. Parents and families also figure into the equation. Despite their children's urging that they don't want their parents involved in their lives, they do. The challenge is walking the tightrope between involvement and smothering a children; between knowing where one's children are, who their friends are and what their child's activities and being unnecessarily snoopy.

Safety of children is also a responsibility of the community at large. There must be cooperative efforts to ensure children are engaged in meaning activities after school. Beyond that, neighbors need to keep the lines of communication open so that they are not only keeping watch over their own children and grandchildren, they are also keeping an eye on the neighbor children.

The start of a new school year should be a time of hope and optimism. Yes, safety should be a consideration but it shouldn't overwhelm the primary focus of public schools — education, learning to get along in the world with people of diverse backgrounds and becoming a good citizen. Ultimately, that may affect safety most of all.