To Promote Safety, Detroit School Issues 'Dog Tags'
Detroit's Malcolm X Academy last week took the unusual step of providing its students with military-style "dog tags'' to aid children who might wander from school or home.
Each brass tag is engraved with a student's name, the school's regular telephone number, and the number for an emergency hot line that school employees will answer from 7:30 A.M. to 7 P.M.
"As a safety precaution, they will have these safety identification tags available for an adult or police officer to look at,'' said Freda K. Dawson, an assistant principal at the public, African-oriented magnet school.
"We don't allow them to wear fancy jewelry,'' Ms. Dawson added, "so we thought this would be some sort of way they could have an ornament around their neck.''
The new addition to the school uniform was distributed to the academy's 519 students last week during an assembly that focused on safety issues.
Parents were asked to reimburse the school for the $4 cost of the tags, but school officials said they plan to give the tags to children who are unable to pay for them.
Clifford Watson, the principal of Malcolm X Academy, said he was concerned about the safety of students who ride buses from various parts of the city to his school on Detroit's West Side.
Beginning this fall, the district stopped sending buses to the homes of the school's kindergartners, and instead asked them to walk to designated school-bus stops like the older students. Officials were afraid children might wander off their normal routes, get lost, or find themselves without adult supervision when they get off the bus in the evening.
The school has already had "a couple serious incidents'' this year, Mr. Watson said. He cited an episode in which a 1st grader had no one to pick him up and had to solicit the help of a postman to get home.
Ms. Dawson, who came up with the school's dog-tag plan, said she had used similar tags four years ago when she taught 1st grade. She found they helped her to keep track of students on field trips and were also helpful to substitute teachers.
The tags, worn on a chain around the neck, also will help bus drivers and Malcolm X parents identify the school's students, Ms. Dawson said.
The school plans to distribute tags shaped like the African continent next year.
John M. Elliott, the president of the Detroit Federation of
Teachers, called the tags "an excellent idea.'' He suggested that the
district make them available to all students, and add vital medical
information to them.