The most visible tool we have to protect our schools are doors. They are everywhere – on the outside of our buildings at various external entrances, and all throughout a school building. While doors may have originally served as a way to allow people to come and go, or help cut down on distractions outside the classroom, doors now play a key role in helping to keep our schools safe and secure.

However, as we travel the country, working with school communities on safety strategies, we see this visible and symbolic tool frequently misused. Yes, doors are important in securing our buildings and classrooms, but too often, we see schools use locking devices and add-ons that actually put students and teachers at risk, rather than protecting them. Here are the most critical considerations everyone should be aware of:

  • First, door locks need to be compliant with building codes, fire codes, and the Americans with Disabilities Act to make sure we’re safe from a variety of threats. Many locks we see do not meet these basic safety requirements.
  • Second, we need door locks to be easy to use for everybody, regardless of age, developmental level, ability, or disability. This means having locks at the right height and easy to operate with one smooth motion. To put it simply, if people have to practice or be trained to secure the door, it’s just not simple enough. History has taught us that people trying to evacuate quickly, especially in groups, can panic and quickly become trapped.
  • Third, the door has to be lockable from inside, without students or teachers needing to open the door to lock it. No one should have to open the door to secure it when there is a possible threat on the other side.
  • Lastly – and this is especially difficult for many of us looking for inexpensive, quick door security solutions – it is important to resist the temptation to install door barricade devices in public places, like our schools. While the intention of these additional devices is to give an add a layer of security, they have the potential to enable bullying, harassment, or much worse when added to public spaces.

When secured properly, doors can be an effective barrier against a safety threat outside the school or classroom AND still allow individuals and groups of people to exit to safely should their situation change like in a lockdown turned emergency evacuation.

I urge you – for the sake of our students and educators – to become informed about the right way to lock doors. One of Safe and Sound Schools’ partners, the Door Safety and Security Foundation, has been leading the charge on this issue. We are proud to partner with them to make sure schools understand how and why to properly lock school doors.

In fact, with their generous support, we produced a short educational video you can share with your school community. Help us open a conversation about this important issue in school safety today. Check out the Door Safety and Security Foundation, and their “Lock Don’t Block” program by visiting www.blockdontlock.org.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting some very special teens who joined us to celebrate our cause during our New Year, New Sound event in NYC. While the event recap does a great job of capturing the essence and excitement of the day, I wanted to share some more personal reflections with you.

Actor Jeremy Ray Taylor and members of the band Chasing da Vinci – Jeddi, Jessi, Josephine and Josiah – were a HUGE part of the success of our event. These five artists traveled all the way from Tennessee to be with us!

Jeremy filmed a PSA calling for students to join our school safety movement, and Chasing da Vinci wrote and performed an original song, “Good Days,” dedicated to Safe and Sound Schools. The music instantly sets an upbeat vibe and the lyrics are powerful!  

By participating in New Year, New Sound, Jeremy and Chasing da Vinci shared their passion, generosity, and hope, filling our hearts and energizing our national movement. I was deeply humbled by their presence and how they gave their time and talents to benefit the safety of students everywhere.

So many young people passionate about positive change for school safety came out for the event. Of course, many heard about us through Jeremy and Chasing da Vinci, but I did get the chance to speak with a lot of them. They brought stories from their schools, experiences that they or their friends have encountered, and most importantly, a desire to create a more caring and inclusive community on their own campuses.

Finally, the support from the many companies who made our event possible brought tears to my eyes. Literally. Kellogg’s NYC was a gracious, welcoming host for us. Hipstr brought the whimsy with their fun and interactive photo booth–lots of Instagram moments there!  And Rekovr donated the coolest sunglasses (check out our Facebook album to see the most popular styles). Each of these donations, on their own, were generous, but altogether showed a network of amazing people behind our mission.

Though we’re more than five years into building this national movement, we’re really just getting started. We have so much more work to do to ensure “Good Days” ahead for our all students. But as we saw at New Year, New Sound, we are joined with so many smart, caring and fun people! Together, everything is possible. Together, we will continue to grow this national community dedicated to making our schools safe and sound.


Michele Gay, Co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools

Safe and Sound Schools and Bark Team Up to Provide Schools With More Comprehensive School Safety Resources

Research-backed educational resources combined with smart monitoring technology helps parents and schools improve safety efforts

Newtown, CT – Jan. 16, 2019Safe and Sound Schools, a national school safety non-profit founded by Sandy Hook parents, today announced a new collaboration with Bark, the digital monitoring service for parents and schools. As part of the agreement, Bark will strengthen its offerings for parents and schools with Safe and Sound Schools’ research-backed resources, tools, and programs.

Bark offers monitoring services to help pick up signs of cyberbullying, sexting, suicidal ideation, school shootings, and more, among youth. The free Bark for Schools program monitors school-issued Office 365 and G Suite accounts. Bark also offers a fee-based service for parents for discrete monitoring and alerts of potential threats. By working with Safe and Sound Schools, Bark will enhance its monitoring services with additional resources to help schools and parents prevent, respond to, and recover from safety incidents.

“Teaming up with Safe and Sound Schools is an incredible opportunity to give schools the tools they need to better protect their students, both at home and at school,” said Brian Bason, Bark CEO. “Given the growing number of school shootings and other threats of violence, there’s no better partner to help keep kids as safe as possible.”

The relationship between online activities and in-school behavior intensifies the importance of monitoring services and their role in detecting potential issues in today’s schools and ensuring a safe school climate.

“The more information we have, the better prepared we can be,” said Michele Gay, co-founder and executive director of Safe and Sound Schools. “When schools and parents can tap into the power of a tool like Bark, they can step in earlier, helping to break the chain of causality in potentially violent situations. Combined with our resources and programs, communities can help mitigate safety risks, and better respond to threats, and overall, have a proactive approach to improve school safety.”

As part of its ongoing commitment to school safety and Safe and Sound Schools, Bark continues to offer Bark for Schools for free. In addition, Bark is offering a lifetime 20 percent discount to members of the Safe and Sound Schools network for personal/family accounts.

For more information, visit Bark’s Web site.

 

About Safe and Sound Schools

Michele Gay and Alissa Parker founded Safe and Sound Schools in 2013, following the tragic deaths of their children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 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 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 every state in the country. For more information, visit www.safeandsoundschools.org.

 

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We are so thrilled to hear that Jayme has been found. The ordeal this family — this community — has had to endure has been horrific and on-going as her surviving family, community, and many of us across the country have waited, prayed, and hoped for her safe return.

Today Barron School District Administrator Diane Tremblay thanked Safe and Sound Schools for providing training and support in crisis response, trauma, and recovery. It is our honor and the mission of our dedicated network of professionals to be able to support the community, provide connections to resources, and to find meaning in our own loss and tragedy by helping others.  We are grateful for the existing relationships and connections that we and our team members have with local school and law enforcement in and around this tightly knit community.

It is important to understand that Jayme and her community’s journey does not end today. While we feel joyous at Jayme’s return, the process of healing and recovery has no prescribed timetable. Each member of the community will have their own unique way to heal, their own journey to follow.

Safe and Sound Schools will continue to provide ongoing support, helping the community develop healthy and supportive programs, activities, and resources to help restore a sense of safety and build sustainability for the long term.

Jayme’s rescue has been truly a team effort among the public safety authorities, school leaders, and the entire community—not to mention this incredibly brave young lady herself. We commend the positive spirit and faith that kept hope alive for Barron and so many other communities facing and recovering from crisis.


Safe and Sound Schools

I can still remember the feelings of fear and guilt that washed through my body when I first heard a gunman had entered my daughter’s elementary school. Fear because only two months earlier, at a parent-teacher conference, I made comments to my husband about the flaws in the school’s security system. Guilt because I buried the pit in my stomach, despite knowing my child’s safety was in danger, and dismissed my concerns altogether. Guilt because I remember thinking the words, that would never happen here.  Not only did it happen a few months later, but my daughter, Emilie, would be one of the victims who would not survive.  

After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I vowed to never silence my voice again.  This was the beginning of my journey towards becoming a school safety advocate and co-founding Safe and Sound Schools.  

When I travel across the country sharing my story, I am always approached by parents, just like me, who are concerned about their child’s school and feel completely lost about what to do. There was a lack of resources available for parents who also wanted to get involved in school safety, and I know from personal experience how intimidating the process can be.  

The Parents for Safe Schools program is designed for parents who want a more hands-on approach to school safety. This free program helps guides you on how to organize your own community dedicated to safety.  

Just like any school safety initiative, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why the Parents for Safe Schools program offers different options, whether you want to start by learning more or sparking discussions at your school, or if you want to take action and advocate for safer schools in your community, Parents for Safe Schools has guidance just for you.

Over the years, I have seen how incredibly powerful the voices of parents advocating for their child can be. There is so much to be done, and Safe and Sound Schools invites you to join our mission. Together we can make our schools safe and sound.

 


Alissa Parker, Co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools