In my home state of Arizona, some school districts are already in session, while most others will resume within the next three weeks or so. In other parts of the country, summer vacation lasts another six weeks or more, but I thought this might be an opportune time to remind parents about parking lot etiquette.
One of the many additional obligations teachers have is “duty,” or monitoring different locations around campus before and after school hours. For three years at my last school, two days a week I had K-1 parent drop-off duty. That means I supervised the parking lot where the littlest students emerged from their parents’ cars. I called it “Demolition Derby.” (Are you familiar with that term? It refers to a contest in which drivers willfully crash into other cars, causing as much damage as possible. The last driver whose car is still operational wins.)
There is a protocol to dropping your child off at school:
- Pull up as far as you can.
- Let the child leave the car. (The duty teacher can even open the car door for the child.)
- Promptly drive away.
Simple enough, right? Even self-explanatory. The drop-off guidelines are sent home to parents at the beginning of every year, with periodic reminders in the monthly newsletters. But K-1 parent drop-off duty was my opportunity to observe many parents behaving as though rules don’t apply to them. On a regular basis, this is what I witnessed:
- Parents stopping their cars as close as possible to the playground, preventing cars behind them from entering the lot. This often causes traffic back-ups on a very busy street.
- Parents who park in a no-parking zone to walk their children to the playground, then hang around and watch them play while other parents try to steer around the car that is blocking all progress.
- Parents not bearing right as customary in normal traffic, but pulling around cars, stopping on the left side of the drive, and letting their children out to scamper between cars moving forward at unpredictable moments.
- Parents who arrange the car seats in their vehicle so that the children can only exit from the driver’s side of the car, so that they have to navigate around the car, risking being hit by a vehicle. These are small children, not easily noticed among SUVs. (Deaths have occurred where parents have run over or backed into their own child. Fortunately, not at my school—yet. What a nightmare, and so easily prevented.) Please, make it possible for your child to leave from the passenger side of the car directly onto the sidewalk.
- Parents who, once they’ve stopped the car, now put a sweater or shoes on the child, give extensive directions, or spend several minutes kissing and loving on their kids before letting them out. Please make sure the child is properly dressed before getting into the car. Talk to your child during the drive instead of waiting until you arrive. Express your affection earlier in the day so you can dismiss your kids with a quick peck or a wave when you get to school. The parents who are stranded around the corner waiting to make a left turn onto the school street will appreciate your efficiency.
When I corrected parents about parking lot procedure, some responded with annoyance, as though I were inconveniencing them. Please understand, it’s for the safety of your children that school personnel ask you to follow these rules. It’s not about you. It’s always about the kids.