INDIANAPOLIS – Recent reports of abuse by staff inside a Brownsburg school and a Greenwood therapy center has amplified the questions surrounding school safety for parents and how to ensure you have picked the right school for your student.

It can be stressful for parents trying to choose a school for their child at any age but especially when it comes to young students or students with special needs who can’t identify or communicate an issue. Parents need to be armed with information and be able to advocate for their student’s best interests.

Kateri Whitley, senior director of communications at The Mind Trust, is weighing in on what information parents can and should be looking for when vetting schools to see if they are the right fit.

Firstly, Whitley says parents should take a tour of the facility. This way you can become familiar with the policies and procedures as well as see the facility in person to get a feel for the atmosphere and cleanliness.

“We know that parents know that safety is the number one concern when they are trying to choose a school. One thing I would ask is what is the teacher to student ratio at the school especially for elementary, middle school grades. Are there any support staff? What kind of counseling is available?” said Whitley. 

It important to be able to ask questions in person and meet some of the staff that will be working with your student. “You should really feel comfortable asking a school how are your teachers trained. How are they trained in classroom management? What kind of discipline practices does that school have and also what kind of qualifications do teachers have? What kind of training do they have for safety, for bullying?” said Whitley.

Before you even get to the questions or the tour you first must find schools you are interested in for some it has to do with proximity while others value special programs that schools offer it can all be overwhelming from the start.

“I would recommend word of mouth first. So ask family, ask friends, ask coworkers for good recommendations. That is kind of the number one way I think people find good schools because they know that people they trust will share a good recommendation,” said Whitley.

Experts also says it is important for parents to know how involved the school wants parents to be and how teachers communicate with families whether it be email, through an app, or over text.

It is important to note that each family has different needs and wants and that there is not one size fits all when it comes to schools.

“If you have a feeling like maybe this doesn’t feel like the right fit, or this doesn’t feel organized, or this doesn’t feel documented well that is probably a red flag. I think parents should trust their instincts on whether that is the best fit for their child,” said Whitley.

On Saturday, June 3, the Indy Schools K-8 Fair is happening where about 40 schools from the Indianapolis area will have booths set up, and parents can explore options and ask questions all in one place. It will be at the Global Village Welcome Center (4233 Lafayette Road). The event is free and you can register here.