school securityGrade Expectations is a weekly look at education from a parent’s perspective. We’ll talk special needs, gifted & talented, and everything in between.

This morning, I read about a 5-year-old girl who was taken from her classroom by a total stranger pretending to be a parent without a single school employee realizing that there was a problem. The child was thankfully found safe and sound, and returned to her mother. However, questions about school security and safety were immediately and rightfully raised. I can freely admit that my first reaction was anger with the school. I looked at my husband and said, “How the hell does this happen?”

That righteous anger felt like a natural reaction. It was easy to generate. It was easy to say, “Receptionists should be checking every individual’s photo ID when they come to pick up a child!” Consider my foot stomped for emphasis.

Then I thought about my own situation, and just how realistic I was being when it comes to schools and safety. The honest truth, I’m not being very realistic at all. The sad fact of the matter is that horrible things can happen, and we have to realize that schools are doing the best they can to take care of our kids.

At both my daughter’s school and her daycare, there’s a buzzer to enter the building and only one door for visitors to use. At both buildings, that door is frequently held open for me by another parent walking in and out or a teacher who happens to see me. If I was interested in coming or going from a school without the secretary knowing, it would be as simple as walking in when there’s a decent chance for foot traffic. Good manners would do the rest.

Then there’s those pesky sign-in sheets and the idea that a receptionist will ask every adult for photo ID. Currently, my daughter has approximately 10 people on her list of adults with clearance to pick her up from school or daycare. Myself, my husband and her biological father are all the standards who routinely pick her up. My parents have both helped out by picking her up on occasion. Then there are emergency scenarios, where my husband’s parents and our siblings all might be handling school pick-up. Throw in a new employee unfamiliar with our family, and there would be ample opportunity for someone to slip in and say, “Oh, her mother was supposed to call and tell you guys I was coming?”