The focus of the Safe Routes to School Program is to make the routes to school safer for children to walk and bicycle. In the context of 'stranger danger' and sex offenders, potential solutions for creating safer routes include having parents, guardians or responsible adults walk or bicycle with their children to school; working closely with local law enforcement officials; engaging community members to keep "eyes on the street"; and equipping children with the personal safety skills to minimize risks.
Parents are encouraged to walk with their children to school. This is a great way for families to spend time together and get physical activity at the same time. While this is ideal, it's not always possible. Older children and younger children walking together in groups can also provide a level of protection. Sometimes parents or adult volunteers take turns walking groups of children from their neighborhood, this is more formally called a Walking School Bus. For more information on the Walking School Bus including steps to start one visit, The Walking School Bus: Combining Safety, Fun and the Walk to School.
The National Center recognizes the need for students to learn personal safety messages. Parents and others involved with a SRTS program should talk with the school to determine what personal safety messages are being taught at school. Additionally, parents should take a role in teaching their children safety skills for handling various situations including 'stranger danger' and sex offenders whether on the route to school or while playing in the neighborhood. There are resources that provide guidance on the safety messages to deliver and age appropriate strategies for delivering them. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children offers guidelines and safety tip sheets. These resources provide school personnel, parents and communities with guidance about program elements and messages needed to teach personal safety to children.
Personal Safety for Children: A Guide for Parents is a resource from the U.S. Department of Justice that provides information for parents about how to talk to children about safety, advice to parents about how to keep children safe, and tips to children about how they can protect themselves.
In partnership with the Children's Safety Network (CSN), the National Center has developed a Personal Security and Safe Routes to School resource that offers guidance on ways to collect information on local crime data, identify potential partners, bring people together, and share strategies to improve the safety of children who walk and bike between home and school:
Another resource is to help parents prepare their children for a safer journey to and from school is Know the Rules...School Safety Tips.
Crime concerns may be based on both real and perceived crime. Whether real or perceived, these fears affect how many children are allowed to walk or bicycle to school. SRTS programs work to identify and address both real and perceived dangers associated with walking/biking to school.