Safe and Sound Schools
Empowering a Nation of Safer School Communities
Safe and Sound Schools
Rethinking School Safety Together:  A Comprehensive Approach to School Safety

Rethinking School Safety Together: A Comprehensive Approach to School Safety

This week school communities and safety professionals across America celebrate Safe Schools Week and we at Safe and Sound Schools invite you to take this opportunity to rethink school safety.

Our work with schools, community members, and professionals across the country, is greatly enriched by many and varied perspectives on school safety.  Despite many different ideas and views on the issue, we’ve learned that it’s an issue that unites us all. We all want our schools–our children and loved ones to be safe to learn and work at school.  But what does school safety mean to you? The truth is that it depends on your lens. Are you a student? A parent? An educator? School staff? A mental health professional? An administrator? A safety professional?

What does school safety mean to you?

Depending on who you are, where you are, and what your experiences have been, you may be concerned with any number of issues from gang violence and bullying, to active shooter and natural disasters.  School safety covers a lot of topics–more than ever today. So how do we make sure that we cover all the bases and still keep an eye on the big picture? How do we ensure a truly comprehensive approach? We bring it all together.

We developed a Framework for Comprehensive School Safety Planning and Development just for this purpose. We like to call it the Big Six. Six key categories, or pillars, that all together support school safety.

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(1) Mental & Behavioral Health: Here threat assessment teams and professionals and and school-based mental health providers such as school psychologists, counselors, and social workers work together to develop the programs, plans, services, and resources that support prevention and intervention for the safety of individuals and the community.   

(2) Health & Wellness: From allergy and trauma care; to spotting signs of abuse and neglect; to nutrition and physical activity; and stress management and self care, tending to the health and wellness needs of our school communities helps foster a successful and safe learning environment.

(3) Physical Environment: Elements of architecture, design, CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design), security, tools and technology help to create and enhance our schools in order to naturally provide for a safe and supportive learning environment.

(4) Culture, Climate & Community: Fostering a safe and welcoming school culture is a fundamental part of school safety. How does it feel to be in school? Do students, educators, staff, and volunteers feel safe and comfortable enough to learn and grow? Here we explore programs and resources that help develop a positive culture and climate, and educate and activate the whole community for the benefit of all.

(5) School Law, Policy & Finance: There are federal, state, and local codes and laws that schools must abide by to ensure the physical safety and civil rights of students and staff. Then there’s the funding and financial planning required to provide for the trainings, tools, programs, and physical improvements that support our school safety efforts. These are the rules of the road and the tools to plan for the journey.

(6) Operations & Emergency Management:  From everyday operations such as transportation, arrival and dismissal to emergency operations such as evacuation and reunification, school communities must examine the full spectrum of crisis prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery operations and the people involved to ensure safety for everyone, every day.

We created this framework to help you rethink school safety, and help you realize how you and so many others are a part of it. Where do you fit?  What can you offer? Where will you start? Who will you invite to join you in working for a safer today and tomorrow?

As you rethink school safety, you will have many more questions than answers. Though one thing is for certain, it takes all of us together to ensure that our schools are truly safe and sound.


Safe and Sound Schools

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Hidden Toxins in School Supplies

Hidden Toxins in School Supplies

When parents put their children on a school bus each morning, they are entrusting bus drivers, teachers, classroom aids and administrators with the health and safety of their children. School is supposed to be a secure, happy place for children to learn, grow, make friends and flourish, but when there are toxins in your children’s school supplies, this environment can become dangerous, and in some cases, even life-threatening. Below are some of the worst toxins your children may come in contact with at school, and how you can limit or prevent this exposure.

Benzene

Many children will only agree to go back to school shopping if they are allowed to pick out fun supplies for their classes. For many kids, this can mean glitter pens and scented markers, but parents beware. A carcinogen known as benzene has been found in many brands of dry erase markers, and can harm your children if they even smell the tips of scented magic markers or dry erase markers.

Asbestos

If your children attend a school built before 1970, the walls, floors and ceilings are most likely lined with asbestos-containing insulation. Your children will probably not know they have even come in contact with asbestos, but even trace amounts of secondhand exposure to these fibers can cause mesothelioma. This incurable cancer will eventually manifest in the lining of the lungs, stomach and heart. It typically takes between 20 and 50 years to show symptoms, which are vague, but can include weight loss, chest pain and difficulty breathing.

This poisonous chemical has also been found in many packs of crayons, which makes it especially harmful for children. As the wax from the crayons comes in contact with paper, it disturbs this harmful substance and puts students at risk.  If you are concerned about your children being exposed to asbestos from their classrooms or school buildings, attend a PTA or school board meeting to inquire about asbestos management. Schools are legally required to have an asbestos management plan in place and parents are allowed to request access to this plan at any time.

Lead

The most commonly known classroom toxin is lead, which was once used in interior paint, pencils, and mixed into the metal that was used to create desks and chairs. Now, however, lead is being found in different materials that students bring to class. Lead has been discovered in the plastic that comprises both water bottles and lunch boxes, which can potentially make your little one’s food and drinks hazardous.

Lead has been phased out of most metals and even paints, but can still be found in many plastic compounds. To ensure that your children’s lunches do not come into contact with lead, a paper bagged lunch is a safer alternative.

To keep your children protected from toxic chemicals and substances they can come into contact with at school, research the school supplies they will need for classes before you purchase anything, and try to use BPA and additive-free plastics when possible. Your children deserve to be as safe at school as they are in your arms.


Guest Author:
Emily Walsh is the Community Outreach Director for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance (MCA) where her advocacy work helps people become aware of what toxins they are exposed to and how to make simple changes for a healthier life. Emily’s main focus is spreading the word about asbestos to all vulnerable communities to make sure they are aware of the material’s potential health impacts. You can follow MCA on Facebook or Twitter.

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

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Youth Suicide: A Silent Epidemic

Youth Suicide: A Silent Epidemic

Jason’s Story & The Jason Foundation, Inc.

On July 16, 1997, the most devastating event that can happen to a parent / family happened to my family…the loss of a child. Jason, age 16, was an average teenager who was an average student, better than average athlete, active in his church youth group and one who seemed to have everything good ahead of him. Yet on this day, Jason was lost to a “Silent Epidemic” that today is the 2ndleading cause of death for our nation’s youth. It is a “Silent Epidemic” that claims an average an average of 118 young lives each week in our nation. This “Silent Epidemic” is youth suicide.

According to the CDC’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey, 17.2% of our nation’s youth replied that they had “seriously considered” suicide in the past twelve month and that 7.4% – that is over 1 out of every 14 young people – reported having attempted suicide one or more times in that same previous twelve months.

Suicide can easily be listed as one of the leading causes of death for our nation’s youth. However, it can also be listed as one of the leading causes of preventable death. Four out of five young people will demonstrate “warning signs” before a suicide attempt. If we know what to look for and how to appropriately respond, we can save lives!

The Jason Foundation, Inc. (JFI) was founded in October 1997 by Jason’s family and a few close friends. Today, JFI is recognized as a non-profit national leader in the awareness and prevention of youth suicide. Providing the information, tools and resources to help young people, educators / youth workers and parents / communities be better able to identify and assist young people who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide is the mission of The Jason Foundation. JFI, whose corporate headquarters is in Hendersonville, TN, has grown from literally a kitchen table to a national network of 125 Affiliate Offices located in 33 states and one U.S. Territory.

One of the greatest accomplishments of JFI is The Jason Flatt Act which utilizes teacher In-Service / Professional Development training to include suicide awareness and prevention. Passed first in Tennessee in 2007, The Jason Flatt Act as been passed in twenty states which impacts over 1.3 million educators and 23 million students.

When asked about JFI’s greatest accomplishments, Clark Flatt President of JFI and Jason’s dad responded, “Since 1997, because of the support of our National Affiliates and many passionate individuals, we have never charged for any of our programs making sure that lack of funding is never the deciding factor on who we can help.”

To learn more about the National public help issue of youth suicide and The Jason Foundation, Inc., visit www.jasonfoundation.com


Guest Author:
Clark Flatt, President of The Jason Foundation Inc.

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

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Surviving Tragedy

Surviving Tragedy

Lisa Hamp is a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting that took place on April 16, 2007. Today, Lisa speaks and writes about her experience surviving and recovering from the Virginia Tech shooting to help others.

I remember as a kid when I used to get excited for a new school year. I would look forward to back-to-school shopping, new clothes, and new school supplies. I would look forward to finding out my class schedule, and which friends I was going to have class with.

My heart aches for the students who aren’t going to have that this year. My heart aches for the students who have survived a school tragedy and don’t want to return to school. My heart aches for those who have witnessed school violence and are experiencing high anxiety as they are fearful to return to school this year.

I grew up in middle-to-upper class suburbia. Helicopter parents, and chain restaurants. Kids wearing Abercrombie and moms driving minivans. I felt safe all the time. But on April16, 2007, that sense of safety was stripped from me. I was sitting in class at Virginia Tech when I heard an unfamiliar popping sound. It sounded like gunfire. During the next eleven minutes, my classmates and I laid on the floor pushing the desks and chairs against the door while the gunman shot at our door and tried to push it open. In those terrible minutes, the gunman killed 30 students and professors in the building, and wounded and traumatized many more.

My recovery journey was far from perfect, but I eventually found my way through the fog. When I reflect on recovery, I realize I learned a lot about counseling, boundaries, confidence, self-care, and feelings. This stuff isn’t taught in school. You learn it by observing those around you.

For those of you who have survived a school shooting or witnessed school violence, I want to share with you what I learned as you return to the school this year.

First, going back to school was harder than I expected. I had a tremendous fear of a shooting happening again. Many people would tell me that it wouldn’t happen again, but I thought to myself, “they don’t know that.” I finally had to accept that there is no guarantee it won’t happen again.

Second, I learned to feel the uncomfortable feelings. I felt survivor’s guilt, fear, anxiety, loneliness, helplessness and self-doubt. I learned that these feelings were telling me something. They were telling me that I didn’t feel safe. Even though I hadn’t been shot, I had been hurt.  As time passed, I was able to rebuild that sense of safety, and acknowledge my own wounds.

Third, I found good listeners. My recovery made great strides when I began connecting with others affected by school tragedy. These people helped me feel less lonely. We bonded. We connected on a level deeper than I connected with some of my closest family and friends.

If you have suffered a traumatic experience in school, getting back in the classroom may be one of the biggest challenges in your life. So here’s my advice: Trust your gut. Listen to your feelings. Write in a journal. Talk to your friends. Hug your friends. Trust yourself. Resist the urge to compare yourself to others. Ask to step out of class when it feels uncomfortable. You got this! And remember, you are not alone.


Lisa Hamp, is a survivor, a wife and mother, and national level speaker with Safe and Sound Schools. Learn more about her experiences and work with Safe and Sound Schools at http://www.kirklandproductions.com/lisa-hamp.html

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5 School Safety Tips to Kick Off the School Year

5 School Safety Tips to Kick Off the School Year

By: John McDonald, Executive Director for Security and Emergency Management, Jefferson County Public Schools, Colorado

Now that school is underway and teachers, students, and staff are settling into their new routines, educators have a responsibility to foster a proactive healthy awareness of school safety. From my years working in security and emergency management, particularly my years in the Jefferson County school district in Colorado, I have developed a quick back-to-school safety checklist. These are the first-five items we tackle at the beginning of every school year.

I hope they are helpful to you, as teachers, staff, and administrators, in setting the tone for the new year. And if any parents or students are reading this, I encourage you to share it with your school. I wish you all a productive, smart, fun, and safe school year.

 

  1. As soon as you can (as close to the first day as you can make it), every student needs to be taught what your emergency protocols are in the school. What is lockdown? Where is the evacuation area? What is expected? And if you are in a school where students change classes, you should review exits and protocols in every class as circumstances may change depending on the physical layout.

 

  1. Reconnect with your Police and Fire Department to talk strategy and expectations during emergencies. While you are at it, find a time for your local emergency management personnel to talk to the rest of the school and parent community, too.

 

  1. Challenge students to find one act of random kindness they can do. When you see something positive, find a way to reward them or lift their actions up. This sets the tone for a supportive and inclusive environment, which not only promotes learning, it makes our schools safer, too.

 

  1. Double check that every classroom is clearly numbered on the inside and outside. If you know where you, then first responders will more easily know how to get to you. Make sure you have a “go” bag of supplies in case you need to evacuate quickly. It’s also a good idea to restock some supplies in the unlikely event you need to shelter in place.

 

  1. Schedule – and then conduct – a lockdown drill in the first month of the school year. Take your time and do it right. Stop timing the drill. Use the time to train for success and survival. This is about your life and the life of students and staff. Make it count.

Hear more from John about his experiences in this video interview.

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Parents for Safe Schools: 5 Ways Parents Can Get Involved

Parents for Safe Schools: 5 Ways Parents Can Get Involved

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.

 

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