Atlanta Public Schools now has its own police force. A new chief of police and 67 officers were sworn in Thursday night at the Center for Learning & Leadership. Read the article: Atlanta Public Schools Swears In New Police Force

OS5A2515June is already drawing to a close.  Most of us are still wondering, “How did the school year go by so quickly?”

Maybe we’re just getting older.  In our defense, I hear the kids saying it too.

It’s the sign of a great school year.

Teachers are closing up their classrooms, parents are pushing the sunscreen, and kids are switching to low power mode. It’s summer.

Yet some of us are already looking ahead to next school year.  In fact at Safe and Sound Schools, summer means getting to work with some of our favorite community members: administrators, safety directors, school officials, emergency managers, law enforcement, and school resource officers.

This June, Alissa and I met with law enforcement officers in Florida, SRO’s in Tennessee and Wyoming, and will soon head to California to meet with emergency managers and responders.

I first spoke to a room full of these folks in April of 2013 at the Massachusetts Juvenile Police Officers Association (MJPOA), in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Though the President of the organization, now a great friend, insisted that my message be brought to the group of 400+ SRO’s, I really wasn’t sure what I had to offer.

I’m a mom, a former teacher, and the mother of three beautiful girls. My youngest was killed at Sandy Hook on December 14, 2012. My second survived, hiding in a closet with her teacher and classmates, and my oldest waited in “hard lockdown” for hours for news that she would never receive: that we were all alright.

Yes, I have a story.  I can grab the heart of a room full of people with it.  But I wondered, “What do I have for trained safety professionals?”  “How can I help them do what they are trained and called to do?”

That April morning, I stepped up to the podium to address a room full of SRO’s.  I wondered if they could see me standing behind it.  I felt so small.

I opened my mouth and the words came out.  My experience, my perspective, my observations. It was what I had to offer.

It was the beginning of a relationship between school resource officers and our fledgling foundation, Safe and Sound Schools. Since that day, folks like these have taken my experience and Alissa’s, our perspective and our observations, and made schools and communities safer.

Since that spring, we have steadily reserved our summers for law enforcement, emergency managers, school safety teams, and school resource officers.  By listening and learning from them, I can develop more powerful resources to make it easier for them to be effective in schools. For example, SROs have a better understanding of how to speak to teachers, students and parents. They also feel appreciated by the community.

This year, it was our privilege to offer full day Safe and Sound School training to the SRO’s of Tennessee and Wyoming, and to share our story with the many of the finest law enforcement officers in Florida.

We’ll continue with these efforts and close the month with the emergency mangers of California.  Together, by working with our School Resource Officers, we can accomplish great things.

So yes, summer is finally here, but our work for a safer school year–for safer futures–It’s only just begun.

– Michele Gay

 

Mom of Sandy Hook victim speaks about school safety

Learn more: Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Mother of Sandy Hook victim addresses school safety in Wyoming

Learn more: Wyoming Business Report 

‘The pain is similar.’ Mom of Sandy Hook victim reacts to Orlando massacre

Learn more: ABC, WCVB, Boston

4-12 Boston Trip (44)Sometimes as a father of school aged children I feel like I spend a lot of my time on the sidelines. Whether that is cheering them on at a sporting event, nervously watching them in a recital, or complimenting them about a school project I didn’t know was due last Friday.

I often wonder: Do my children know how much I care about them? And, what else can I do to be more involved in their lives? And how can I keep them safe when I am not present?

Of course these questions are natural for fathers. We, like our counterparts, are required to sacrifice so much for the overall benefit of our children. As a parent –a father–there is nothing more important than the well-being and safety of our family.

After my oldest daughter, Emilie, was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school, my wife Alissa and other grieving mothers from Sandy Hook met to support one another. As their relationships grew, so did their focus: ensuring the safety of children in school. The women started Safe and Sound Schools.  I am so impressed with what they have accomplished.

Like many of the other fathers, I supported them–from the sidelines. That was until I realized that this is a game I can join. This is a game I need to join.

Our children spend about the same amount of time at school each week as we parents do at work. As fathers, our responsibility to ensure our children’s safety and well-being goes beyond the walls of our own home.

As I have met with teachers, administrators, safety and security experts, I have found a group of people who genuinely care about my children’s safety as much as I do. Together we have recognized problems and found solutions that have benefited thousands of children.

If you want to know how to be more involved in your child’s life, in their safety, explore the Safe and Sound School site to access free resources. Get involved, your children will benefit from your love and hard work…whether they know it or not.

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Robbie Parker is husband to Alissa and father of Emilie, Madeline and Samantha. Robbie, is a Neonatal Physician’s Assistant, a contributor to Safe and Sound Schools and co-founder of the Emilie Parker Art Connection, founded in honor of Emilie’s love of art.

Campus Safety speaks with RETA Security President Paul Timm to get tips for upgrading door locks and executing effective lockdowns.

Read the article: A Physical Security Expert Gives Best Practices for Lockdowns and Door Locks

UCLA officials say they are reviewing security, after students pointed out that while they were hunkered down during yesterday’s campus shooting, some of their classroom doors didn’t have locks, or swung outwards, so they couldn’t be barricaded easily.

Read the article: UCLA Investigating Doors That Couldn’t Be Secured During Campus Shooting

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On December 14, 2012, I had two children in Newtown schools. My daughter, Charlotte, was one of the 20 children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary and my oldest son, Guy, was in 5th grade at Reed Intermediate School. Three weeks after the shooting, Guy returned to school on January 3rd, and was introduced to the therapy dogs that had already been visiting the school in the previous weeks. In the immediate days following the tragedy, dogs around the country were deployed to Sandy Hook and Newtown and were received openly and with gratitude by the community. The Newtown school district noticed the positive reaction to the dogs and deployed therapy dog teams to many of it’s schools. The intent was to comfort the students and the staff, but the dogs also added a layer of security that one may not anticipate or notice.

The security I speak of is not the type that protects one’s physical safety. I am speaking of the emotional security they can provide. For my son, returning to school was distressing. He felt exposed, vulnerable, and had exit plans for threatening scenarios. Throughout the next months he would spend a great deal of time with the therapy dogs. These dogs gave a great deal more than just love and comfort. The idea that the single job of a therapy dog is to make people “feel better” is a big misconception. No dog was going to make him ”feel better” after his sister just died, but what they did provide was an opportunity to allow my son to feel safe, understood, and loved. With them, he could be vulnerable and let his guard down. He did not have to pretend that he was OK. When in their presence, Guy felt safe enough to feel what he was feeling. The added bonus is that he also believed he was physically safer with a dog nearby and viewed them as protectors.

The impact therapy dogs had on my son was profound. Last September as we approached the third anniversary since Charlotte died at Sandy Hook, Guy became a published author at the age of 13. His book, The Dogs of Newtown, features many of therapy dogs that visited his school and gives tribute to their work. Therapy dogs did not fix Guy, nor cure him of grief for his sister. Nothing can fix something like this, but he has demonstrated how an individual can grow from profound adversity with the right support and love. I am incredibly proud of my son. His experience, along with Charlotte’s love for dogs, inspired my husband and I to create the program Charlotte’s Litter which advocates and supports therapy dogs in educational settings. It is our hope that schools will recognize that therapy dogs can help students feel emotionally safe and supported and aid to developing well rounded students.

– JoAnn Bacon

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JoAnn Bacon is mother to Guy and Charlotte Bacon. JoAnn and her husband, Joel, founded the Charlotte’s Litter Therapy Dog Program in memory of their daughter Charlotte. The Bacon family advocates for the use of therapy dogs in education. For more information about their work and books please visit: www.charlotteslitter.org and www.gooddogsgreatlisteners.com

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