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School safety is team sport

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Like football, school safety requires a group effort for success. And with students around Utah now returning to the classroom, it's important everybody do his part to keep young people out of harm's way.

Youngsters need to be taught how to be safe. It doesn't come naturally. And now is a good time for parents to go over some of the fundamentals with them. They likely need to be reminded — again — to wait for buses away from the street and to wait until the bus comes to a complete stop. They need to be reminded to be alert to traffic, never anticipate what a driver may or may not do and to use the handrails when boarding and getting off the bus.

In cars, seat belts are a must. And distracting the driver should never be permitted.

When walking, students should mind all traffic signals, walk their bikes through intersections, walk with a buddy and wear reflective material. They should try to choose routes that have sidewalks and always obey the instructions of crossing guards.

While students are doing such things, parents and teachers need to be just as alert. They need to stay on top of school violence. Bullies have come under fire in recent years. Adults need to keep the pressure on abusive peers. But bullies aren't the only nemesis. Adults need to be doubly vigilant in monitoring for drugs, guns, drinking and hazing. Making sure schools and homes have a plan in case of an emergency or disaster is important. At grade schools, playground equipment should be checked and rechecked.

The world will never be risk-free, of course. But as with any team sport, public safety is often about anticipation — foreseeing situations before they arise and doing something to remedy or defuse trouble before it leads to tragedy. The old line about it being better to build a fence at the top of the cliff than to put an ambulance at the bottom applies. By taking precautions, students and adults can avoid a lot of heartache. And that, in the end, may be one of the most important lessons schools can share as the state's youngsters return to walkways and roads.