What could school safety and climate change possibly have in common? Plenty, it turns out. At the root of each of these enormous issues is human behavior: all of us, what we do — and what we don’t.

Whether it’s a school shooting at Sandy Hook, a bullying event, or a school bus accident, too many schools see only darkness and sadness, instead of being healthy, cheerful places of learning. But inevitably, we’ve learned, resilience appears: the amazing propensity for communities to come together to support, love, heal, and rebuild.

Now what does this have to do with the environment? I’ll get to that… First, let’s level set on some facts.

Carbon emissions are analyzed by scientists, who have warned of a planetary greenhouse effect for decades. In a series of increasingly alarming reports, they conclude that global warming creates exacerbated conditions for extreme weather events: major precipitation, historic flooding, unmanageable wildfires, unbelievable wind-velocity accelerations, and record-breaking heat waves among them. All of which affect our school children, teachers, families, and staff, especially if they are asthmatic, or if they live near a coal plant, or a flood zone, or if the coach doesn’t bring practice indoors on a sweltering day. (See, I told you I’d make that connection.)

Threats to schools are often tangible. A gun, social media post, or a bottle of pills. Each of these are controlled by the people who use them — and also by the policies that regulate them, or not. By contrast, carbon emissions are gaseous, barely tangible. But greenhouse gasses are also controlled by human beings, and by the policies that regulate them – or not.

Visitors from another planet might wonder why carbon emissions and school-based crises, both issues with massive public support and smart solutions — have not been fixed. “Why the delay?” they might ask. After all, the danger is obvious. Solutions are at hand.

To tap into the solutions available, we need everyone to get involved. When it comes to climate change, we are involved, with more of us joining the ranks of the concerned and alarmed as we speak. On the school safety front, we see more parents, students, educators, mental health professionals, public safety officials, and general community members stepping up and doing what they can.

School-safety advocates know what climate activists know: culturally, politically, and financially, the established “business as usual” approach does not always welcome change.

For a moment, let’s leave the special interests, the lobbyists, the partisan politics behind. Let’s focus on the lives of our friends and neighbors, doing all we can to help those who feel fear, loss, pain, and suffering due to violence in schools. Similarly, as we watch people’s livelihoods, health, homes, and farms literally burn, smoke, blow, or wash away, we need to be there for each other, to comprehend the loss, and be supportive as we press ahead.

An overwhelming majority of the world’s most esteemed scientists agree climate change is real and human activity is to blame. An equal chorus of first responders, educators, parents, and policy leaders would say the same about school tragedy: it is real, and human activity is to blame.

In climate communications, the Trusted Messenger principle has proven to be powerful: informed and engaged, armed with facts, we can all be influential in our communities and networks. The same is true in school safety. When we work together, across all facets of schools, families, public safety officials, and community partners, we can develop comprehensive solutions to address threats to school safety.

From the broadest standpoint, we need a planet on which to live and educate our youth. As we dive more deeply, the threats schools and communities face due to weather-related incidents, amped up due to climate change, are only going to increase in frequency, intensity, and duration. So for our planet, for our schools, and for our youth, we must step up. We must do all we can to make our children – and our planet – safe and sound. Please help me in protecting our world – the physical planet, and all it holds dear, including our precious students and those dedicated to their education.


Guest Author: Sarah Finnie Robinson is the Director of The 51 Percent Project, a new climate communications initiative based at Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy. She is a parent and grandparent, and she knows the world can be a better place.

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.

His students may call him “Mr. De,” but Frank DeAngelis is known by many others as family, friend, mentor, and colleague.

When I first met Frank in the summer of 2013, he brought me immediate comfort. I never could have predicted how steady a force he would become for Safe and Sound Schools and for me personally.

The summer after my daughter was killed in the tragedy at Sandy Hook, I attended The Briefings, an annual conference presented by the“I Love You Guys” Foundationin Colorado. Friends had encouraged me to come to listen, learn and speak in public – for the first time – about losing Josephine and starting Safe and Sound Schools. Though it was to be a short speech, I was beyond nervous. Up to this point in my life, the only audience I was eager to speak in front of was a classroom full of energetic elementary students.

Sitting in the front row of the auditorium at Columbine High School, my stomach flip-flopping and heart racing, I looked to my right and two seats over, where I caught the eye of Frank DeAngelis. We’d never met before, but he just knew by looking at me, that I was not at all sure of what I was about to do. He reached across the presenter between us, patted my hand, and gave me a look that conveyed, “You got this.” It’s a look he’s given away thousands of times to thousands of others, but that one was for me—and at just the right moment.

Frank’s gesture of support and solidarity gave me the strength to get on that stage and launch Safe and Sound Schools publicly. The feedback from attendees at The Briefings and the I Love U Guys community was incredible and thoughtful. They validated our mission and our approach. I knew we were on the right track and with the right people.

After that day, Frank and I exchanged emails and continued to run into each other in our travels and at conferences. Each time I saw Frank, I felt like I was reuniting with an old friend. The work of building a foundation and launching a mission was hard and surprisingly lonely at times.  Whenever I would run into Frank, I’d leave with my cup filled and a reminder that I was not in this alone.

Years of speaking and working together have passed and the friendship has continued.  Frank is now an integral part of the work we do at Safe and Sound Schools and has joined us as an advisor and speaker. And, we are lucky to have him.

Frank officially retired a few years ago, but has not stopped since. He works with us, sits on the board of the I Love U Guys Foundation, and supports the work of the Koshka Foundation and Safe2Tell Colorado. We joke that his retirement has him busier than ever.

When he asked me to read and review the manuscript for his new book, I was honored, but also grateful that others would have the opportunity to get to know Frank.  Frank is such a special person, and everyone who has met him feels connected to him. But, of course, there’s only so much of Frank to go around.

Frank’s book, “They Call Me Mr. De,” is a perfect opportunity to get to know Frank, and be inspired by a great man and a truly humble servant.

Forever changed by the Columbine tragedy, Frank carries a heavy burden. He does it with heart and dedication, and always in honor of his “Beloved 13,” the survivors, the entire Columbine community, and all those he has come to know and love since the tragedy. His book–his story– is a gift to all of us.

To understand what I mean, take a read or a free preview. And know that a portion of proceeds from this book will come back to support the mission of Safe and Sound Schools and all the non-profit organizations that Frank DeAngelis, a.k.a. Mr. De, generously supports with his time and in his travels.


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

The briefing and panel discussion set for Capitol Hill will focus on “The Importance of Mental Health in Comprehensive School Safety and Security Efforts” on April 11, 2019.

Newtown, Conn. – Apr. 9, 2019Safe and Sound Schools, a national school safety non-profit founded by Sandy Hook parents, today announced it will host a briefing and panel discussion in cooperation with the Congressional School Safety Caucus on Thursday, April 11, 2019.  The discussion, “The Importance of Mental Health in Comprehensive School Safety and Security Efforts,” will be led by Michele Gay, co-founder and executive director at Safe and Sound Schools.

“Mental health is a key area essential not only to comprehensive school safety, but to the work that we do at Safe and Sound Schools,” said Michele Gay.  “It is a great honor to be apart of this opportunity to share insights around mental health services, school culture, and how we can make our communities safer for students and educators.”

Fellow briefing participants include:

  • Edward A. Clarke, Chief Safety Officer for Montgomery County Public Schools, MD
  • Dr. Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, Nationally Certified School Psychologist and Director of Policy and Advocacy at the National Association of School Psychologists
  • Dr. Christina Conolly, NCSP: Director for Psychological Services with the Montgomery County Public Schools in Rockville, MD
  • Paul Kelly, Principal of Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove Village, Illinois
  • Benjamin S. Fernandez, MS Ed, School psychologist and Coordinator of Prevention Services for Loudoun County Public Schools, VA

Co-hosts include the Secure Schools Alliance, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of School Psychologists, School Superintendents Association, and Security Industry Association. The briefing will take place at the Rayburn House Office Building.

“We must look at school health, safety and security holistically, as they are interconnected,” said Robert Boyd, Executive Director of Secure Schools Alliance. “Although the Alliance focuses on improving the physical security of K-12 schools, we are excited to join with our partners to brief the Congressional School Safety Caucus on the critical role mental health professionals play in our schools.”

For more information about the Congressional briefing or other inquiries, view the invitation.

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 New England Business Association 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.

About NASP

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) represents more than 25,000 school psychologists, graduate students, and related professionals throughout the United States and 25 other countries. NASP works to advance effective practices to improve students’ learning, behavior, and mental health.

About NASSP

The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization for principals and other school leaders across the United States, seeking to transform education through school leadership.

About AASA

The School Superintendents Association (AASA) is the premier association for school system leaders and serves as the national voice for public education and district leadership on Capitol Hill.

About SIA

The Security Industry Association (SIA) is the leading trade association for global security solution providers, nearly 1,000 innovative member companies representing thousands of security leaders and experts who shape the future of the security industry.

Secure Schools Alliance

The Secure Schools Alliance, a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization, works to improve the nation’s school security infrastructure, security technology and life safety systems as an important way to help protect children and teachers.

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Media Contact:
Azia Celestino
Safe and Sound Schools
acelestino@safeandsoundschools.org

 

By Cameron Fox, Safe and Sound Schools Teen Ambassador

Through the Safe and Sound Schools Youth Council (SSYC), students can get the resources to easily create a school safety council within their own communities.  I recently started my own chapter- the Summerville Youth Safety Council at my school, Summerville High in South Carolina.

In our first meeting, we brainstormed issues and areas of importance to improve our school’s safety.  Many people believe that implementing more physical safety features such as cameras, windows, and locks, are the only ways that schools can become safer.  While physical safety measures are extremely vital to a safe and secure school, our council asked ourselves questions like, ‘What other methods could impact the feeling of safety?  What could the student body do to promote change?’  We came up with 4 ways students can make schools safer.

Build relationships between students and school staff

I believe that creating a familiarity with the school’s staff can encourage students to report safety concerns.  Many students that I have spoken with are more comfortable speaking to a teacher rather than an administrative officer.

The council members and I came up with the idea of a Teacher-Student Breakfast held at the high school.  The event will allow students to really get to know their teachers. This is important because the bond between teachers and students has a big impact on the safety of a school.

Know the difference between ‘snitching’ and reporting

Many students fear retaliation from peers, and become discouraged when it comes to reporting a threat.  However, they don’t understand the greater risk of not saying something about suspicious activity. Speaking up can impact everyone in the school community.  Students that report can save lives.  This aspect of school safety is extremely powerful, and helps prevent potential threats.

Get to know the physical safety measures & protocols at school 

My chapter realized that students within our high school don’t recognize the physical safety devices employed on campus.  It is important to make them more aware about what these devices are and how they are used. I believe that educating students about this equipment is a simple way to empower students, and evoke a better feeling of safety.

Taking the 2019 State of School Safety Survey 

Safe and Sound Schools has created a survey that allows students, teachers, and parents to share their thoughts on school safety.  This is an easy, yet important, method to encourage individuals to speak about how safe they feel.  This survey will gather your feedback and point out the topics that are trending across the nation. Just make sure you complete the survey here by Thursday, April 4, 2019!

I hope this blog post encourages other students to take action and be proactive to make their schools safer.  Click here for the step-by-step process to start your own Safe and Sound Youth Council chapter.


Cameron Fox attends Summerville High School in South Carolina.  She is a teen ambassador for Safe and Sound Schools and the reigning Miss Green Wave Teen 2019.  As a titleholder within the Miss South Carolina Scholarship Organization, her advocacy platform is “Feeling Safe and Secure in Schools.”  Cameron is an active member of the local Dorchester Task Force for School Safety, and her goal to ensure a safe learning environment for youth.  She works to inspire students to utilize their voices and become leaders in their school communities.