This year, May 21-27 is National EMS Week! Many of us at Safe and Sound Schools know how important our EMS responder’s are to the safety of our schools, but the connection might not be so obvious to everyone. We sat down with Justin Pignataro, Administrator at the Maryland Center for Safe Schools and retired Tactical Medic to learn more.

Safe and Sound Schools: What is it that EMS Responders do for the safety of our schools?

Justin Pignataro: EMS Responder’s are always ready to respond to someone’s emergency within moments of notification.

What most folks do not see is the “behind the scenes” preparation, the basic EMT program for certification is a minimum 168 hours of classroom–practical and clinical skills training, followed by written and skills tests.

To become a Paramedic level provider, months of additional training is required.

Within the Community and our schools, EMS providers are an integral part of what we call our Public Education component. Along with their fire service counterparts, they provide community education such as Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and basic first aid training, familiarization to young and old on how they do their job and what to expect if you are in need of their help, along with building relationships with the citizens we serve.    

Safe and Sound Schools: As an EMT, what’s the best part about working with local schools?

Justin Pignataro: We love working with our youth, the younger kids show an enthusiasm that is unrestrained and energetic, with a lot of “what is it like” and “what if” questions, while our middle and high school youth tend to ask more real-life based scenario questions, usually based upon something that has happened within their life, neighborhood or at school.

I love educating others about we do and how we handle crisis every day.  I think it shows students and adults that although “life happens,” we can overcome most things together.

Safe and Sound Schools: What’s one (or two) of the greatest challenges EMTs face working with youth today?

Justin Pignataro: Communication with anyone in a crisis is always a challenge. Providers are trained to remain calm while assisting people through crisis. From the first few seconds on scene, we try to portray calm and speak slowly to diffuse the fear and apprehension that people experience in crisis. It really helps to to calm them down and let them know that we are there to help. Most kids are really interested in what we do and enjoy learning about the tools and technology that we use to help people.  It always helps to show those off a little!

The second challenge we face relates to the information age that we live in today. Often instead of calling for medical help when needed, young people will attempt to take matters into their own hands first, asking a friend for advice or “googling” to find their own treatment. While well intended, this can lead to more problems and often makes the situation worse. As much as possible, we look for opportunities to interact with youth in the community so that they will know that we are here for them—no matter how big or small the crisis. 


Thank you, Dino (Justin Pignataro) and all of our EMS professionals for your work to keep us safe at school and in the community!

In 1962, President Kennedy declared May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day.  This special day of recognizing the sacrifice of our national fallen officers has grown into what is currently known as, “Police Week.”  Celebrated in our nation’s capital, Police Week draws between 25,000 and 40,000 attendees made up of police officers, law enforcement agents, families of who’ve lost their loved ones, survivors, and supporters.

Of the many powerful events organized for the week is the Candlelight Vigil, honoring police officers that have given their lives in the service of our communities.

Mo Canady, Safe and Sound Advisor and Executive Director of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), captured these moments to share at this year’s Candlelight Vigil.

While the Police Week program continues all week in Washington, DC., we ask our Safe and Sound community to remember and recognize the dedication of police officers at home and in our school communities.

To provide some inspiration, we asked a few of our law enforcement friends to share some of the most meaningful gestures they’ve experienced.  Here are some of the surprisingly simple answers we received:

  • A randomly spoken, “Thank you” from a passerby
  • A kind note tucked under the windshield wiper
  • Hand-picked bouquets left at the police station from anonymous community members
  • Blue ribbons tied around the trees of a community for Police Week
  • Rubber memorial bracelets distributed throughout the community
  • The artwork of children delivered by a local school (volunteers created a “gallery” at the station for officers to enjoy all year long)
  • Lunch donated by a local deli
  • A social-media challenge campaign to “Thank an Officer” in the community
  • Dinner made and delivered for a fallen police officer’s family

When it comes to the safety of our schools and communities, police are often our most valuable and dedicated partners, and a little recognition goes a long way.  Thank a police officer today!

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MEDIA ADVISORY


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Sandy Hook parent, Michele Gay, shares lessons learned from tragedy

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WHAT:

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Safe and Sound Schools’ executive director and co-founder Michele Gay will present at the 33rd Annual Governor’s Safety and Health Conference and Exposition. Gay will share her personal experience of losing her daughter, Josephine Gay. As a teacher and involved parent, Gay will share the lessons learned from Sandy Hook and how it has positioned her to help school communities prevent and better prepare for school safety issues.

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WHO:

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Over 200 safety Kentucky professionals, non-profit organizations, and government officials will attend this conference to learn solutions to address safety and health issues in Kentucky.

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WHERE:

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Northern Kentucky Convention
1 W Rivercenter Blvd
Covington, KY 41011

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WHEN:

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

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PHOTO/INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITIES:

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Michele’s is the first keynote speaker and will speak from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

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About Safe and Sound Schools

Safe and Sound Schools is a non-profit organization founded by the parents who lost their children during the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. Winner of the 2015 SBANE New England Innovation Award for nonprofits, Safe and Sound Schools is dedicated to empowering communities to improve school safety through discussion, collaboration, planning, and sharing of information, tools, and resources. To get involved, visit www.safeandsoundschools.org.

 

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Celebrated nationally every May, Teacher Appreciation Week offers students, parents, and other school community members an opportunity to recognize teachers for the important work they do in contributing to the education and safety of our children. As professionals tasked with inspiring young minds and laying the foundation for future leaders and professionals, teachers often go above and beyond the call of duty. From spending lunch and after school time providing our students with extra support, to spending their own money on classroom supplies, to becoming emotionally invested in helping our students navigate school life, teachers have proven to not only be educators but also caregivers.

For these reasons and many more, we ask that you take this week to #ThankATeacher.

A heartfelt thank you note is always a welcomed gesture from both parents and students. Parents who have some free time can even consider volunteering in the classroom as another gesture of appreciation. If you are looking to help in other ways, you may also consider donating supplies to the teacher’s classroom, purchasing a gift card, organizing a potluck or catered lunch, or gifting spring blooms from your garden or local market.

Let us know how you are celebrating teachers this week. And if you are on social media, consider participating in the #ThankATeacher campaign.

Below are some statistics and facts that put the ongoing dedication of our teachers into perspective.

 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  In recognition of mental health as one of the most important pieces of school safety today, we asked Safe and Sound advisors, Dr. Melissa Reeves and Dr. Stephen Brock to weigh in on what they see in our K-12 schools today.

Safe and Sound Schools:  Drs. Reeves and Brock, what are the top 5 mental health issues and themes you see in our K-12 schools currently?

Drs. Reeves and Brock:  It’s difficult to pick just 5, but these make up a great deal of the mental health work we are seeing in the field of K-12 School Safety today.

Two key mental health challenges our schools are facing are:

1. Suicidal ideation and behavior among students.

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the CDC, rates have significantly increased since 2008 (after over a decade of decline). Nineteen states have passed laws requiring suicide prevention education for educators, the most recent being California. On September 26, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 2246 which requires all schools serving students from grades 7 to 12 to adopt comprehensive suicide prevention policies (that address suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention).

2. Increased anxiety due to demands and social pressures.

Academic demands continue to increase and students are feeling the pressures to take more challenging classes. Social pressures, the constant comparisons to others via social media, and readily available access to information for which children and youth may not be ready to comprehend and process, are all contributing to higher levels of anxiety. Schools are beginning to teach students anxiety management strategies to better cope with these stressors.

On the positive side, these are three trends we see schools taking to address mental health in schools:

1. Integration of mental wellness into the curriculum.

Social emotional learning (SEL) programs not only help to keep our young people psychologically well, they have been shown to improve academic performance and decrease referrals for negative behaviors.

2. Prompt identification and treatment of mental illness.

Half of all lifetime cases of mental illnesses emerge during the school years (by age 14). The school environment is the perfect setting for early identification. Universal mental wellness screenings should become as common as vision and hearing screenings.

3. Increasing mental health services and staffing in schools.

Research shows that mental health treatment compliance increases 21 times when it is provided in a school vs. in a community setting. School-employed mental health professionals can work directly with students to learn social-emotional skills that increase social competence and academic achievement, and decrease mental health challenges.

 


Dr. Reeves is President of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and speaker and advisor for Safe and Sound Schools. Dr. Brock is the former President of NASP and speaker and advisor for Safe and Sound Schools.