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Hometime messages - security risk?

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#1 ali-song

Posted 20 July 2019 - 11:16 PM

Not sure if this is just our school being slack...

Yesterday, friend and I were making plans for after school, and she suggested that instead of me picking my DD7 up, that she could walk home with her DD12. Great, she’ll call and leave a hometime message for both girls. It then occurred to both of us that it’s a bit odd that you can call and leave a message to change plans for any random child at the school, with no verification that the person calling is the parent and even when the caller is clearly NOT the parent.

Isn’t this potentially open to abuse? “Hi, this is Jane Smith, can you please ask Sally to walk to the corner and look for a man in a white van?” Are there security protocols in place that I’m not aware of? Presumably there would be flags for any at risk child, but would the school office lady be paying enough attention to notice this?

I’ve thoroughly creeped myself out imagining the possibilities.

#2 seayork2002

Posted 20 July 2019 - 11:33 PM

Not sure, I guess teachers can't specifically know every single child's go home plans each and every day? Sometimes my son walks home, sometimes my dad/mum pick him up or DH or he comes to my work or a friend's mum picks him up.or ba/oosh

If he had friends within walking distance how would the school know every day?

And this is just DS being one chils

#3 JRA

Posted 20 July 2019 - 11:43 PM

a home time message is?

#4 seayork2002

Posted 20 July 2019 - 11:44 PM

View PostJRA, on 20 July 2019 - 11:43 PM, said:

a home time message is?

That too!

#5 ali-song

Posted 21 July 2019 - 12:07 AM

Oh, sorry - thought they were universal! Do you not have the concept, or are they called something different?

You can call and leave a message for your child regarding any changes in plans. Then 5 minutes before the end of school there’s an announcement over the PA ‘would the following students please come to the office for a hometime message - Max J from 2K, Sarah S from 5R...’ There are multiple students called every day, and it’s very exciting if you’re the recipient of a message.

#6 amdirel

Posted 21 July 2019 - 12:11 AM

The last time we had something like that was in preschool!
School kids can do what they like.

#7 just roses

Posted 21 July 2019 - 12:23 AM

Hometime messages are new to me, too!

#8 Lou-bags

Posted 21 July 2019 - 12:25 AM

Me also! (But I’m still new to the school parent hood).

#9 Riotproof

Posted 21 July 2019 - 12:26 AM

At our school, you actually have to call the office. I’m not sure what verification they require.

#10 Paddlepop

Posted 21 July 2019 - 12:36 AM

View Postamdirel, on 21 July 2019 - 12:11 AM, said:

School kids can do what they like.

Sure, they can leave the school by themselves if they're older than FYOS generally, but most children will be leaving and doing what has been prearranged with their parents eg go to OSHC, get picked up by mum at the front of the school, walk with friend to their house until picked up by dad, go to tennis training, etc. Sometimes those plans will change during the day so you call the school and they pass the message on to the child.

DD's school doesn't have a formal "come to the office" system like OP's school. There's no school PA system. The office just calls the child's classroom and speaks to the teacher, or if the classroom is close enough and they feel like a bit of a walk they'll deliver the message in person.

OP: Yes, I've had to call DD's school a few times to change arrangements or let DD know that I'll be late (she used to get super anxious if I wasn't there waiting the moment she got out of the classroom). The school receptionists all know me and know that I'm DD's mum. They know my voice on the phone. It's a small school so they tend to know everyone. I assume that in the event of a non-parent/guardian calling to change a child's home time arrangement they'd use their common sense and knowledge about whether there's an existing friendship between the children or adults and if unsure would call the child's parents to check.

#11 SeaPrincess

Posted 21 July 2019 - 12:40 AM

If our collection plans change, I call the office and/or email the teacher and they will get a message to my child, e.g. if they rode their bikes and I need to pick them up for some reason. Even if I change plans, I still have to have a person collecting my child on the approved list. Prior to grade 1, there was a book in the classroom that could be used to write a note before school to let the teacher know if anything different was happening (e.g. play date with another child from school).

Home time message sounds like a disruptive nightmare to me.

Edited by SeaPrincess, 21 July 2019 - 12:44 AM.

#12 mpoppins92

Posted 21 July 2019 - 01:05 AM

At my school we don’t have home time messages but every now and again I’ll get an email to say “Tell Timmy to meet his mum at Kindy” or similar. I teach year three and I definitely don’t know all my students home plans. I have a vague idea but almost none of my students get picked up from the classroom and they all run out at the bell. I’ve had one Mum inform me of a grandad coming but tbh by year three my kids know how they are meant to get home and they come back if something didn’t go to plan to get help to find Mum/Dad/Nanna etc.

#13 José

Posted 21 July 2019 - 02:38 AM

hometime messages are NOT a thing!

#14 ytt

Posted 21 July 2019 - 03:38 AM

I work in a school and have even worked in the school office in a few schools, I've never heard of hometime messages.

Saying that you'd be amazed of how many parents/caregivers call 5 minutes before the bell to change pick up plans. It's a nightmare because classes won't be in the room as they are all walkling down. Messages go over loud speaker and walkie talkie but due to noise or where the classes are they don't hear it.

Oh and if that child gets on the bus rather than what the parent wants it will be all over facebook :rolleyes:  and generally it's the same parents.

#15 SplashingRainbows

Posted 21 July 2019 - 06:03 AM

At the school I went to all changes in pick up plans had to be notified to the school, even high school.

At my kids primary they do not care for the mainstream kids. Bell goes, kids go everywhere. No one would have a clue if a kid went with someone they weren’t meant to.

I know the reason my first school was so cautious (a child was murdered after school one day before making it home). I’m not sure whether to admire the innocence of my kids school or worry incessantly.

Thankfully I have obedient kids who won’t wander off so the risk to them is pretty low.

#16 LiveLife

Posted 21 July 2019 - 06:34 AM

I just text my kid directly. Their phone is not on them but they get the message on smart watch. High SES area so gadgets like these are pretty much on every child.

#17 JomoMum

Posted 21 July 2019 - 07:10 AM

At our school, only FYOS students are observed by the teacher as they leave the classroom one at a time  to meet parent/carer outside, or wait on the seat for OOSH. Everyone else just walks out and do as they please.

Has your friend tried it? Did the allow her to make the changes in behalf of your daughter as well?

#18 PhillipaCrawford

Posted 21 July 2019 - 07:21 AM

My kid's school, this was some years ago we would ring and speak to the teacher direct. Late changes it would be an announcement "X' go to the office and teacher on duty would check the yard for any who had missed it..

In terms of school safety a stranger is not likely to achieve anything since they would need to identify child and child's class. I suppose it would be possible to get that information but it would be targeted stalking not a random stranger. How likely is it they would know all the names in the scenario?

Could be more an issue in a case where there were court orders but I would expect a school to have those children flagged and there to be an extra layer of security.

If you are still freaked out I suggest establishing a family codeword. I taught my kids that I would never send anyone to pick them up who couldn't tell them the password, even people they knew. Limited use if I had been hit by a bus I know but it added a sense of security for them.

#19 Prancer is coming

Posted 21 July 2019 - 07:44 AM

Kinder and some prep teachers at our school tend to be quite vigilant in who the kids go home with, but other grades they are not.  If there is a change of plans in pick up details, people tend to ring the office and the message gets conveyed to the kid.  I have done it occasionally, like when after school training is cancelled and my kid needs to come home instead.  Mobiles are not allowed at primary school and can be collected after school, so I suppose some pat hrs could message.  Don’t think I would trust a fyos kid to read a message about pick up details on a smart watch!

Our school does have a list of kids that are more carefully monitored - on orders, family law court arrangements or parents have raised concerns about certain people not allowed to pick up children.  

We had a situation where a kid caught the bus home instead of going to after school care.  After school care had a duty of care to the child, and they were unable to get in contact with the mum or the child.  Ended up with police being called and took several hours to sort.  The school did get a bit stricter about marking who got on the bus after this.

#20 ~J_WTF~

Posted 21 July 2019 - 07:52 AM

I have never heard of hometine meaaages.

If we call to change something or need a message relayed they email the teacher or call the classroom and let the teacher know and they inform the child.

In the younger years we can’t change the plans of any child but our own and honestly that’s how it should be. I have had to grab a friends kids but she notified the school of that

After prep kids just leave the classroom on either the bus bell (5 minutes earlier) or the normal bell and scatter in all directions, the teachers have no clue who is going where or with who.

We have a codeword. My kids know not to go anyone with anyone unless they can tell them that codeword. It’s been needed a couple of times.

#21 José

Posted 21 July 2019 - 08:21 AM

View Post~J_WTF~, on 21 July 2019 - 07:52 AM, said:

I have never heard of hometine meaaages.

We have a codeword. My kids know not to go anyone with anyone unless they can tell them that codeword. It’s been needed a couple of times.

is that because they needed to be picked up by someone familiar who knew the codeword or because randoms were trying to pick them up and they couldn't because they didnt have the codeword?

#22 Expelliarmus

Posted 21 July 2019 - 08:28 AM

Most schools probably just ring the message through to the class teacher. Usually they are pretty specific. “Susie needs to go home with Kyle’s mum” and you know Susie’s mum and Kyle’s mum have a relationship. Most of them are grandma or auntie will pick you up today, or mums running late go to the office, occasionally go to OSHC. You do get to learn who are the significant people in a child’s life and kids with custody orders are flagged.

A message about meeting a man in a white van on the corner would not get through.

#23 ekbaby

Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:09 AM

When a parent rings to give a message about their kids journey home, they need to give their kids full name, their own name and usually their kids class (for primary). If the school has been notified about a safety concern for a child (eg DV, custody issues, child is in foster care and birth parent not allowed contact) then there is a “red flag” that pops up on the computer system to alert admin staff (eg “birth father is not authorised to be given info about child “ ...backed up by court orders etc in the child’s paper file). So a random “bad person” would very unlikely know all that information. A known person who is not supposed to access the child, if the school has been alerted to the issue, they will be extra careful about making sure the person who rings up is authorised. Eg if mum is the only parent authorised, will ring mum on the number they have for her to check.

#24 Tokra

Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:42 AM

Have never heard of 'home time messages' to be honest. Been involved with 7 different schools.

ETA: I would think it a bad idea, as yes, it would be quite easy to for someone to do the wrong thing. Mainly in terms of custody or foster situations I would think. But I could think of too many other ways it could be used badly.

Edited by Red Sparrow, 21 July 2019 - 09:58 AM.

#25 Mae55

Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:43 AM

We have ‘hometime’ messages at the school where I work and at my children’s school. Both large primary schools and it’s easier for the admin staff to take the messages over the day and then tell the child in person so they know the message got through. It saves them having to chase around to find a teacher/class who might be at library, specialist class, sport or working in another room etc. Rainy afternoons there can be a large number of messages along the line of wait at the office and I’ll pick you up, or get a lift with so and so.

I’ve never thought about the security issues overall - I’ve only thought about it in relation to specific children with custody issues/ foster care etc.

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