How tragedy and government involvement shape school security’s future

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New survey shows kids and parents agree: anxiety runs high over school shootings with the start of new school year; experts cite need for more safe-school solutions

HOUSTON, Aug. 28, 2018 — As parents across the country head out to purchase No. 2 pencils, composition notebooks and a flurry of other back-to-school supplies, there’s one more item parents are prepared to pay for out of their own pockets: improved school security.

According to a new survey, 81% of students and 89% of parents expressed anxiety over school shootings with the start of the school year, and a majority of parents (75 percent) are willing to pay out of their own pockets to do something about it.

And while teens and parents are known to universally butt heads when it comes to agreeing on things, when asked about prioritizing funding, both parent and student survey respondents ranked improved school security as the top priority for additional funding over academics, arts and athletics.

The online survey was commissioned by Raptor Technologies®, the leader in integrated school safety technologies, and Safe and Sound Schools, a nonprofit founded by Sandy Hook parents focused on improving school safety. The survey interviewed 501 U.S. parents with K-12 kids, and 501 students ages 13-18.

“As a community concerned with school safety, we need to better address both prevention of school violence as well as preparation for such incidents,” said Eileen Shihadeh, senior vice president, Raptor Technologies. “Businesses, organizations, and schools need to come together to improve preventative measures such as identification and assessment of threatening or tell-tale behaviors, and emergency planning such as practicing regular lockdown drills and making sure schools have effective incident management tools in place.”

Michele Gay, a Sandy Hook parent who lost her daughter in the 2012 shooting and co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools added, “The fact that you’re seeing parents willing to spend their own money on school security measures speaks volumes. It’s a sign of the times that we now live in a world where parents and students feel security upgrades are outranking the need for academic or athletic priorities. This all underscores the need across the board for better solutions to help ensure a safe school year.”

The survey asked parents and students where school security and safety falls in their priorities for school improvements, and both students and parents prioritized “school safety” over academics, arts, and sports.

Additional Survey Highlights

  • The majority of parents (54 percent) felt school safety and security deserved the most additional school funding.
    • Thirty-two percent felt it should go towards academics, 6 percent towards sports and 6 percent towards art.
  • In regard to school safety risks, active shooter topped students’ “very worried” list (32 percent).
    • Nineteen percent are “very worried” about sexual assault, bullying (18 percent), physical assault (15 percent), and weather-related emergencies (7 percent).
  • On the other hand, parents are “very worried” about bullying (49 percent), followed by an active shooter (44 percent), physical assault (30 percent), sexual assault (29 percent) and weather-related emergencies (23 percent).
  • Seventy-nine percent of parents said they plan to talk to their children about school safety.
  • Seventy-one percent of students said they will pay more attention to signs of depression or violence in a classmate.

For more information on the survey, visit https://raptortech.com/study/

About Raptor Technologies®

Raptor Technologies is the nation’s leading provider of integrated school safety technologies for K-12 schools across the United States. Founded in 2002, Raptor developed the first web based visitor management system designed for schools. The Raptor® system monitors visitors, contractors, and volunteers who enter a building and provides instant screening for sex offender status and custody orders. The system has flagged more than 50,000 registered sex offenders attempting to enter K-12 schools. In fall of 2017, the company unveiled Raptor Emergency Management®, a system that helps schools prepare for, respond to, and recover from an incident with drill management, active incident management, and parent-student reunification tools. It also provides real-time reporting dashboards that allow administrators the ability to track the status and location of every individual in the event of an emergency. In 2018, over 22,000 schools across the nation trust Raptor to help protect their schools. For more information, visit www.raptortech.com

About Safe and Sounds Schools

Founded in 2013, Safe and Sound Schools works with school communities and mental health professionals, law enforcement, and safety professionals to create and ensure the safest possible learning environment for all youth. The non-profit organization, started by parents who lost their children in the tragedy at Sandy Hook, delivers crisis prevention, response, and recovery programs, tools, and resources, backed by national experts, to educate all members of the school community, from students and parents, to teachers and administrators, to law enforcement and local leaders. Winner of the 2015 SBANE New England Innovation Award for nonprofits, Safe and Sound Schools continues to answer the growing needs of school communities with custom programs, assessments, and training, reaching schools in nearly every state in the country. For more information, visit www.safeandsoundschools.org.

Survey Methodology: This survey was conducted online within the United States by Survata, an independent research firm in San Francisco, on behalf of Raptor Technologies and Safe and Sound. Survata interviewed 501 parents with K-12 kids between August 13-20, 2018, and 501 students ages 13-18 between August 13-15, 2018. Audience was U.S. census representative on region, ethnicity and gender. For complete survey methodology, please contact Ida Yenney.

 

Announces Rania Mankarious as Special Advisor for Strategic Growth

 

Newtown, Conn. – August 22, 2018Safe and Sound Schools today announced Rania Mankarious as special advisor for non-profit strategic growth. In this role, Ms. Mankarious will provide strategic direction and oversight of the organization’s funding initiatives, including partnerships, cause marketing campaigns, and grant applications.

 

Rania Mankarious, new Special Advisor for Strategic Growth for Safe and Sound Schools.

Ms. Mankarious currently leads Crime Stoppers of Houston, one of the largest public safety non-profit organizations in the State of Texas, since 2013. As its CEO, she brings years of experience working with non-profit organizations and specifically the development of programming, strategic planning, development and marketing. Most recently, Mankarious received recognition for building the first ever Crime Stoppers of Houston headquarters, a public safety facility acting as a centralized hub for all things related to public safety. Additionally, studying school trends for over a decade, Mankarious launched the Crime Stoppers Safe School Institute, a program that is proactive in stopping school violence, school shootings, terroristic threats while adapting to the growing concerns around the mental health and emotional health of students.

 

Mankarious has a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, and a J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center. As a mother of three, she remembers the moment news broke of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School and vowed to reshare her own work to increase the safety of all students, in all schools across Houston. Most recently she has been working with the Office of the Governor to increase Crime Stoppers of Houston’s Safe School Institute programming across the State of Texas.

 

“We have been working with Rania Mankarious in a consulting capacity for several months, and we are thrilled she has agreed to solidify our relationship in this important advisory role,” said Michele Gay, executive director and co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools.  “Rania’s impressive background strengthens our leadership team, and she has already helped Safe and Sound Schools garner additional resources we need to expand our programs and services, reaching more school communities.”

 

“Public safety is a basic human right. While I care for and remain committed to the security of all, I am especially invested in the safety of all students, in all schools, at all times across this nation,” said Rania Mankarious, J.D. “This issue must be addressed methodically, systematically and with a great understanding for the risks posed against todays student – whether due to violence, social media, bullying, mental health or even just extreme weather. School safety requires deeply complex solutions that do not rise or fall with political emotions or rhetoric. It’s my honor to join forces with Safe and Sound Schools to further their mission of providing more communities with the tools to make their schools safer.”

 

For more information about Safe and Sound Schools, including ways to donate and join its corporate partnership programs, visit https://www.safeandsoundschools.org/support-safe-and-sound-schools/.

 

About Safe and Sound Schools

Founded in 2013, Safe and Sound Schools works with school communities and mental health, law enforcement, and safety professionals to create and ensure the safest possible learning environment for all youth. The non-profit organization, started by parents who lost their children in the tragedy at Sandy Hook, delivers crisis-prevention, response, and recovery programs, tools, and resources, backed by national experts, to educate all members of the school community, from students and parents, to teachers and administrators, to law enforcement and local leaders. Winner of the 2015 SBANE New England Innovation Award for nonprofits, Safe and Sound Schools continues to answer the growing needs of school communities with custom programs, assessments, and training, reaching schools in nearly every state in the country. For more information, visit www.safeandsoundschools.org.

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One of the key takeaways from the 2018 State of School Safety Report illustrates a lack of communication and misunderstanding about school safety among parents, students, and educators.

Safe and Sound Schools is addressing this need with some quick, simple ideas for how parents can get more involved. We hope you can use these ideas as a start in your community.

1. Form a Parent Safety Team within your school community. This could be the organizing body for safety activities and communications throughout the year. You can also tap into the Safety Team to have discussions with leaders and administrators to share the programs and resources from Safe and Sound Schools. Another idea is to bring administrators the State of School Safety Report to learn about how your school compares to our findings.

2. Conduct a Survey in Your Community. This will help your school community get a better sense of what concerns they have, as well as what assets already exist. Perhaps you have a parent who is also a public safety officer, or another who is a mental health expert, or one who has been studying the influence of media on our youth. You might find some real gems and people who can enrich your community’s knowledge.

3. Fundraise for Safety. One way to help fund subject matter expert presentations and workshops, and safety improvements is to tap into the power of parent networks for fundraising. Asking friends, family members, and neighbors to support school safety for your children will help defray costs while having a tangible benefit to the community. Have a bake sale or lemonade stand, run a “Change for School Safety” collection drive, start a GoFundMe page, sell tickets to a talent show, or even hold a silent auction. A little bit spread over a broad network will go a long way.

4. Organize Volunteers. Launch a volunteer program at your school designed to have more adults on hand during busy moments such as arrival, dismissal, or lunchtime. Make an effort to get as many parents CORI-certified as possible to strengthen your volunteer force.

5. Tip Reporting. Check in with your school to see if they have an anonymous tip-reporting system. Help them promote the tool through posters, announcements, and even guest speakers. If they don’t have a system, help them get one. Giving students, staff, teachers and administrators a safe way to report concerns will increase the likelihood of stopping a security threat before it starts.

School safety isn’t one person’s responsibility, it is the responsibility of every school community member. As parents, we should have a seat at the table and play an active, present role in ensuring the safety of our students. For more ideas, visit our Parents for Safe Schools page.

 

While I spend a fair amount of time traveling to visit schools, communities, and school safety professionals, my travel increases tremendously in the wake of a school tragedy. In those moments, when I listen to the conversations around me, I hear such strong views, opinions, and ideas about school safety– all coming from the deepest places of concern, fear, anger, and disbelief.

In the aftermath of tragedy, with every breaking news detail, we are unified in our desire to keep our kids and communities safe. But, as mouths move and emotions rise, I find myself internally wondering, What were your thoughts on school safety the day before the disaster? Were you this concerned with school safety the day before the tragedy? Were you talking about it at the office? Did you post on social media about it? Was the topic even on your radar?

For many–if not most of us–it likely wasn’t. While I wonder, I do not judge. It wasn’t high on my radar on December 13, 2014, the day before an attacker walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and into my daughter’s fist-grade classroom. It wasn’t until a tragedy touched my life that the issue of school safety took a permanent position in the forefront of my mind and sparked the mission that is now at the core of Safe and Sound Schools.

With the new school year upon us, the back-to-school commercials airing once more, and school emails filling our inboxes, I wonder about the year ahead. Many of you are wondering about it as well, perhaps even considering a more proactive role in the safety of your child’s schools. With this hope in mind, I share the top 10 questions I hope you will ask yourself, your children, your neighbors and your school – questions I wish I had asked myself years ago:

1. What conversations are you willing to have with your children regarding school safety and the risks that can arise while at school (always considering your child’s age and readiness for conversations surrounding safety)?  Topics may range from weather safety (what to do in the case of a tornedo) to school violence. What will be your family plan? Who in your family can your student call in case of an emergency.

2. What about your school’s plans? Are you aware of the emergency plans? Do you know what is expected of you? It’s critical that you know and understand your school’s plan in the case of an emergency and in order to support these plans at home. For example, does the school perform lockdowns? What kinds of other drills are practice–and how often?

3. How is outside access to the building controlled during school hours?  Are exterior doors locked or open during the day? How many points of entry into and out of your school are there? What about the security of school visitors? Is there a visitor management system, either manual (with staff checking visitors in and verifying id’s) or technology-based (such as Raptor Visitor Management) in place to vet those gaining entry into the schools?

4. What about security? Does staff or security walk around the school, inside or out? Does your school have the support of a school resource officer? Does your school have any unique weaknesses in terms of its physical structure that need to be addressed? Do the classroom doors lock? If so, how? Do those locks meet fire code? How are the doors unlocked? Are glass entryways into your school fortified?

5. What law enforcement agency supports your school and is called in case of an issue? How many officers and agencies (i.e. fire, police, EMS) are available to your school if needed?

6. In the case of an emergency, what is your schools reunification plan? Is there one? What is expected of parents in case of reunification?

7. Have you talked to your students about being good citizens as well as being good cyber-citizens? How are kids protected and/or disciplined in cases of bullying?

8. How does your school support mental health? Is there a school-based mental health professional available to students and families?  Do students know where to take concerns about themselves or their peers?  How does your school foster a culture of safety and support for all students?

9. Does your area provide unique challenges or issues that affect your student’s safety? Extreme weather or natural hazards? If so, are there weather shelters in place? Is your school in a high-crime area? If so, is walking to school appropriate? How is student safety ensured when coming and going to and from school?

10. Does your school have a system to monitor threats on social media that identify your school or students in them? What about reporting mechanism on campus? Do students have a way of reporting known information to either a trusted adult or an outside agency? Safe and Sound partners with ReportIt nationally. This and other organizations offer tools for students and community members to keep their schools safe.

 Having lost our precious daughter at Sandy Hook School, the thought of school safety is with my family every single day. It is my hope that communities come together, with students hand-in-hand, working purposefully, to protect every campus across our nation. The loss of one child this coming school year is one too many. Join me and our growing team of volunteers, experts and community members who are determined to keep all kids Safe and Sound.


Michele Gay, Co-founder and Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools 

Donation underscores the importance of anonymous reporting for school safety, and will fund the development of a new threat assessment program

 

Newtown, Conn. – August 15, 2018Safe and Sound Schools today announced a $25,000 grant from report it® to develop a new threat assessment program to help schools improve their safety and security. report it® is a trusted anonymous, confidential reporting app that allows anyone to quickly and easily share concerns and feel confident the right people will receive their report. The two organizations are working together to raise awareness about the importance of anonymous reporting for school safety, specifically its role in early detection for intervention and prevention.

“Our goal is to foster communication, and through that, we can prevent violence,” said Anthony Lavalle, executive director and founder, report it®. “If something isn’t right, then people need so speak up and feel comfortable doing so. If they are uncomfortable speaking in person, they can know that report it® will route their concern to the right in-school designated report recipient , whether it be the school principal, SRO , Guidance Counselor , mental health specialist, or administrator.”

While students often know about potential acts of violence or threats, many are unwilling to communicate due to fear of retaliation. report it® provides a simple solution that allows youth to feel comfortable sharing potential threats, while helping schools prevent violence and improve safety. The report it® platform is accessible from the web or app, is discrete, and allows for the full spectrum of reporting concerns. Anonymous tips to report it®   are automatically routed to the appropriate agency in the city/state where the user is using the app. This saves time and ensures report receipt quick and efficient attention by the proper agency in the nearest jurisdiction.

“report it®’s focus on early detection for intervention and prevention aligns well with Safe and Sound School’s goal of school crisis prevention, response and recovery,” said Michele Gay, executive director and co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools. “Anonymity is critical in the school environment. Students and community members who use report it® can be confident their information is not even in the app, which removes a burden from students and opens a direct channel of communication.”

report it®’s donation to Safe and Sound Schools will fund a new program targeted toward threat assessment available in early 2019. For more information about Safe and Sound Schools, including free assessment tools, tool kits and resources, visit www.safeandsoundschools.org.

About Safe and Sound Schools

Founded in 2013, Safe and Sound Schools works with school communities and mental health, law enforcement, and safety professionals to create and ensure the safest possible learning environment for all youth. The non-profit organization, started by parents who lost their children in the tragedy at Sandy Hook, delivers crisis-prevention, response, and recovery programs, tools, and resources, backed by national experts, to educate all members of the school community, from students and parents, to teachers and administrators, to law enforcement and local leaders. Winner of the 2015 SBANE New England Innovation Award for nonprofits, Safe and Sound Schools continues to answer the growing needs of school communities with custom programs, assessments, and training, reaching schools in nearly every state in the country. For more information, visit www.safeandsoundschools.org.

About: Report it com Inc.

Founded in 1999, Report it provides anonymous and confidential hotline/ tip line services for Public & Private k12 Schools, Colleges and Universities, Public & Private Companies, Non Profit Organizations, Hospitals, Municipalities, Federal Government  and Public Utilities etc.  The core mission of the Report it service is to provide a platform that enables our clients to be proactive instead of reactive through early detection for intervention and ultimately prevention.

 

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As summer draws to a close, the next few weeks are prime time to take your kids back-to-school shopping. Lunch boxes, binders, and classroom essentials like tissues and cleaning wipes are necessary purchases for parents to make before children start their first day back.

Although we assume that these common school supplies are safe for our children to use, there is still the chance that harmful ingredients can be present. Before you take your child shopping, keep these three ingredients in mind and make the conscious decision to purchase and inquire about healthier products.

1. Phthalates in plastic products

Phthalates are a class of chemicals used to improve the durability of plastic. They are found in a number of consumer goods including food & beverage containers, children’s toys, and even shower curtains. But, they are also widely present in school supplies such as lunch boxes, backpacks, and binders.

Phthalates are a known hormone disruptor, and multiple studies have linked exposure to developmental and reproductive concerns. Research has also suggested a risk of allergic diseases due to DEHP and BBzP phthalate exposure.

When you take your child shopping for supplies, consider purchasing eco-friendly binders made from non-plastic products such as cardboard or fabric. Avoid backpacks with plastic designs or exteriors as these likely contain phthalates. If you’re on the hunt for a new lunch box, choose cloth over hard plastic versions or check out independent reviews such as this one from Romper for phthalate and BPA-free options.

2. VOCs in classroom cleaning supplies

VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are a variety of chemicals released as gases from common cleaning products. Air fresheners, chlorine bleach, glass cleaners, and even wet wipes can contain these chemicals that are linked to a number of health issues. Exposure has been known to cause headaches, liver and kidney damage, and allergic skin reactions.

Oftentimes, teachers will ask students to bring in cleaning supplies for the classroom. Before you throw any brand into your cart however, check the label for VOCs. Benzyl alcohol, ammonia, and ethanol are three common ingredients to look out for, but consultCenter for Disease Control’s (CDC) list for others that may be present.

To err on the side of caution, choose eco-friendly cleaning supplies that will protect your children and the environment. If you’re still unsure about a product’s safety, look for buzzwords on the packaging like “harmful if swallowed,” “use gloves,” or “use in a well-ventilated area.” These phrases are usually good indicators that a product contains harmful chemicals like VOCs.

3. Glyphosate in School Groundskeeping Products

Although this ingredient isn’t one that parents will be able to directly impact, it’s still important to know the products that are being used to treat school grounds, sports fields, and playground areas.

Glyphosate is an active ingredient inherbicides, widely used by gardeners, homeowners, and farmers. In recent years however,lawsuits have alleged thatglyphosate is a carcinogen linked to cancers including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In fact, a school groundskeeper’s legal casehas been the first to move forwardafter years of exposure to the chemical during his time as pest manager for a San Francisco school district.

A study published in JAMA found that the prevalence of human exposure to glyphosate has increased by 500% in recent years. However, research is still being conducted to determine the human health effects of this exposure. Concerned parents should inquire with school administration about the products being used on school grounds, especially since the chemical’s safety remains under speculation.

Conclusion

Heading back to school is an exciting time, but don’t let the anticipation of a new academic year cause you to forget about your children’s safety. Take time to read product labels, inquire about the safety of your school’s groundskeeping efforts, and ensure that the items you send with your child into the classroom are safe and healthy for all.


Guest Author Bio:
Morgan Statt is a health & safety investigator who covers a number of issues including product safety and trending health news. With her background in strategic communication, she strives to educate readers on how they can make informed decisions about the products they purchase every day. In her free time, she can be found crafting the perfect Spotify playlist and supporting local businesses who share in her passion for quality food. Follow her on Twitter @morganstatt.

Editor’s Note:
This blog contains views, and positions of the author, and does not represent Safe and Sound Schools. Information provided in this blog is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Safe and Sound Schools accepts no liability for any omissions, errors, or representations. The copyright to this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.