Asking Questions at School to Keep Our Kids Safe


By Sara Kennedy, Hands & Voices

Stories of bullying and abusive situations for children who are deaf or hard of hearing (and all kids) can leave a parent wondering what they can do to protect their children. As we have been studying this issue for several years now through the O.U.R .Children’s Safety Project at Hands & Voices, a small group of parents and professionals came up with some practical, concrete steps that parents can take in the realm of the IEP table. Highlights of this information as well as ideas for goals to relate to child specific skills were also shared at the recent Hands & Voices Leadership Conference in Hood River, Oregon.

Shining a light on the policies and procedures a school or district has in place to protect all kids, and particularly kids with special needs who are at two to three times greater risk of experiencing bullying or abuse is a first step. How would a parent do that? Any parent can ask the following questions at any time, but these questions would seem completely natural and expected particularly when a student is enrolling in a new program, transitioning between buildings, having a change of primary teachers, bus drivers, or other key staff, or moving into a new community.

Questions that every school district and program should be able to answer:

We know, too, that teaching social skills and self advocacy skills directly can have a huge impact a child’s ability to say “NO!” when an unsafe situation first begins before it escalates into something more hurtful or damaging to the child. Asking these questions before an IEP or before even enrolling would pave the way toward creating effective services to promote these skills for their child.

Questions to ask about self-advocacy and social skills:

School staff who prioritize children’s safety will not hesitate to explore these questions with interested parents. Parents may be greatly reassured by the answers, or it may be clear that more work is needed to create a safe school community and open communication. Either way, it is better to seek out needed information than to assume that someone has already asked these questions. Let’s help all students be safer in schools, at home, and in the world.

For more information, see the wiki site for collaborative learners on this project at  or join in the monthly conference call by contacting We are particularly looking for parents and professionals to share experiences of supporting a child’s success and safety on the wiki site.