In 2018, we conducted an in-depth look at perceptions that parents, educators, and students have on the state of school safety. We issued the results of that survey in the first-ever State of School Safety Report. We are so grateful to the nearly 3,000 people who participated in this research study. This national survey captured perceptions that school stakeholders have about school safety, including current frustrations, as well as opportunities for improving communication, taking a broader view of safety threats, and conducting outreach to more community members.

We heard from safety experts, advocates, government leaders, parents, educators, and students that this report helped broaden our understanding of school safety and provided a conversation tool for communities around the country.

For 2019, we are thrilled to once again embark on this important research, this time with support from students at faculty at Boston University College of Communication. They have broadened the research in some ways, and focused it in other ways. We aim to measure changes in perceptions and dive more deeply into specific areas.

We hope you will take a few minutes to complete the survey by Thursday, April 4. The survey can be found here: https://bostonu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6MdjpIDIdn2hlyZ.

Safe and Sound Schools will publish a report on the survey findings in the spring, and of course, we’ll share it with you here, first.

Please ask your friends, family, and school communities to take this survey as well. The more people who participate, the better, as we’ll have an even-more clear look at the state of school safety.

Thank you for being here for us… with us… doing what we can for our children today and tomorrow, in honor of those we lost in the past.

After months of preparations, the Safe and Sound Parent Council program training has officially begun! The Parent Council is an exclusive structured education program to empower and prepare participants to advocate for school safety with authority and credibility.  With our first webinar session completed last week, we are now gearing up for a string of guest experts who will teach our Parent Council about each topic in our comprehensive school safety approach.

Brooke, one of our Parent Council members, explained how she has always wanted to get more involved in school safety, but wasn’t sure she could make a difference. She said, “ After the first session I couldn’t believe how my mind was swirling with thoughts on how I actually could make a difference. SASS presented school safety as so much more than just a topic but as a process and as an achievable goal with many avenues. I can’t wait to learn more!”

Next week we will be hearing from Dr. Todd Savage, a professor of school psychology and former president of the National Association of School Psychologists. Dr. Todd Savage will be teaching us about Culture, Climate, and Community. He will be presenting with Bill Modzeleski, a senior consultant with several groups specializing in school safety, threat assessment, emergency management, and homeland security. Bill recently retired after over 40 years of service at the Departments of Justice and Education and  will be presenting on Law, Policy, and Finance.  

We look forward to seeing all the amazing ideas from our fantastic group parents come to life as they work with school administrations to make their schools safe and sound. We are so grateful for this wonderful group of parents who understand that school safety is not one person’s responsibility – it is all of our responsibility.  


Alissa Parker, Co-founder & Director of Safe and Sound Schools

For most us, February 14th marks Valentine’s Day to celebrate with loved ones, but for many in Parkland, Florida, it is the day that marks the tragic loss of 17 innocent lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Anniversaries of trauma are difficult days. They evoke intense emotion and bring back traumatic memories from the tragedy.

It is sometimes anticipation of the anniversary that is worse than the actual day. This is not meant to say that the anniversary is an easy day, by any means. However, anticipation of the anniversary builds over time, so it lasts longer than the actual anniversary day.

Anticipation of the anniversary holds a lot of unknown. How will the day go? Will I be able to get out of bed? Will I be able to keep it together?

The anniversary and the time leading up to the anniversary is a time to pause and process your emotions. Recovery from trauma is a process. It takes time to move through the stages the grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Not everyone will experience all stages, and the order you go through them can vary. Recovery usually requires painful emotions be thoroughly processed. Journeys after trauma and loss will be different for everyone.

February 14, 2019 marks one year since 14 innocent students and 3 innocent teachers lost their lives to gun violence. It marks one year of nightmares and flashbacks for the surviving students, teachers, the MSD families, and the larger Parkland community.  It marks one year since a tragic Valentine’s day, where many started the school day like any other, left forever changed by mass violence.

To those impacted by the shooting, you may feel a rush of overwhelming feelings as you reflect on the past year and look ahead to next.Tragic flashbacks running through your head and you can’t seem to get away from your emotions. Outside pressure for what you will do or how you will mark the day may be overwhelming.

Pause. Breathe, and breathe again. These feelings are normal. If you wait a little longer and focus on your breathing, the uncomfortable emotions will eventually pass. When the sun rises on February 15, 2019, the first anniversary of the worst day of your life will pass too. It may feel like a weight has been lifted from your chest.

As you continue your recovery journeys, I send my thoughts, prayers and a few words of advice from a fellow survivor: Don’t compare your experiences. Make self-care a priority. Be kind to yourself.  Be patient with yourself. And remember, breathe.


Author: Lisa Hamp, Virginia Tech Survivor

Now that the new year has come and gone and students have settled back into their school routine, we’re rewinding the tape–just a bit–to bring you our 2018 year-end review. To those following Safe and Sound Schools, you may have noticed Safe and Sound’s more mainstream presence over the last year. While we’ve been quietly and successfully working around the clock since the loss of our children, 2018 brought our work into the forefront in many ways, offering us the opportunity to work in partnership with national groups like Alice’s Tea Cup, Shake Shack, Kellogg’s, and Door Security & Safety Foundation. It was also the year we launched our inaugural State of School Safety Report. With more than 2,170 media placements in 2018, Safe and Sound Schools is committed to elevating the national school safety conversation and effecting change globally.

During our last quarter, the Safe and Sound team sustained momentum from quarters one, two, and three, and collectively traveled to 16 states and 34 cities, with a mix of local and national engagements. Here’s quick look back at our fourth quarter.

October was the busiest month. Our team of speakers traveled to communities all across the country, while our in-house team focused on spreading our mission virtually, using social media to shed light on topics like Fire Prevention Week, Bullying Prevention Month, and Safe Schools Week.

In November, the Safe and Sound team presented for groups like the New York State PTA and the Maryland Association of School Business Officials. During the Maryland visit, co-founder Michele Gay was awarded the President’s Award for her work in school safety, both nationally and as part of our Safe and Sound Maryland initiative, sponsored by the Building for God Foundation of Maryland.  During this month, we also announced the National Summit on School Safety, an intensive and interactive two-day conference focused on the six key areas of comprehensive school safety. Note – this conference is scheduled for March 29-30, 2019 and there is still plenty of time to register!

December marked the 6th anniversary of the Sandy Hook School tragedy. Our team scaled back community visits as the Gay and Parker family focused on remembrances for Josephine Gay and Emilie Parker. To commemorate Joey and Emilie’s lives, Alissa Parker shared a sweet memory highlighting Joey and Emilie’s friendship.

Safe and Sound Schools concluded December with the exciting unveiling of an updated logo and a new website! We also filmed a new educational video about door safety, thanks to the generous support of the Door Security & Safety Foundation, and provided the media with a sneak peek at our new partnership with Bark.

As our team expands, so does our reach. And with every day, our work becomes increasingly important. Thank you to all the donors and supporters who made 2018 such a success.

For a detailed look at our fourth quarter travels and select media engagements, check out the lists below. And to keep up with all things Safe and Sound, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Look out for our 2019 first quarter recap in April!


Select Media Engagements and Featured Publications


Fourth Quarter Community Visits

October

  1. Oct. 4, UT – Alissa Parker presents in Lehi for the Utah Association of Secondary Principals, sharing School Safety: A Parent’s Perspective.

  2. Oct. 5, NY – Michele Gay keynotes for the Genesee Valley School Boards Institute in Rochester, New York.

  3. Oct. 8,  ID – Frank DeAngelis attends an educational conference in Boise, Colorado.

  4. Oct. 8, PA – Michele Gay presents at the Reading/Berks County School Nurses Association Conference in Reading.

  5. Oct. 9, PA – Michele Gay shares School Safety: A Parent’s Perspective with the Wilkes-Barre Area School District.

  6. Oct. 16, PA – Lisa Hamp presents at Uptown! Performing Arts in Westchester, Pennsylvania.

  7. Oct. 16, MO – Frank DeAngelis presents on workplace violence in St. Louis, Missouri.

  8. Oct. 19, CO – Frank DeAngelis presents for National Council of State Education Attorneys in Denver, Colorado.

  9. Oct. 19, DC – Michele Gay and Lisa Hamp attend the American Institute of Architects Conference for Safe School Design in Washington, DC.

  10. Oct. 21, MA – Natalie Hammond participates in a panel discussion, Gun Violence Prevention and Keeping Our Children Safe, for Common Street Spiritual Center in Natick, Massachusetts.

  11. Oct. 22, NV – Alissa Parker presents Engaging the Community in School Safety: Tools and Ideas for Safer Schools at Nevada Principal’s Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

  12. Oct. 23, NY – Michele Gay presents for GST BOCES in Painted Post, New York, focusing on a Parent’s Perspective, Beyond Tragedy, Reunification, and Engaging the Community.

  13. Oct. 23, MI – Frank DeAngelis presents for the International Association of Emergency Managers in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

  14. Oct. 23, FL – Alissa Parker shares her personal story of faith, hope, and healing for the Children’s Healing Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida.

  15. Oct. 24, MA – Dan Jewiss presents Tragedy at Sandy Hook School:  Law Enforcement’s Perspective for Lee Public Schools in Lee, Massachusetts.

  16. Oct. 24, MA – Micheel Gay presents Tragedy at Sandy Hook School: A Parent’s Perspective for Lee Public Schools in Lee, Massachusetts.

  17. Oct. 24, MA – Natalie Hammond presents Tragedy at Sandy Hook School: A Survivor’s Perspective for Lee Public Schools in Lee, Massachusetts.

  18. Oct. 25, CA – Alissa Parker attends Guidepost Magazine’s Cabinet Gathering in Huntington Beach, California, discussing healing, faith, and her book An Unseen Angel.

  19. Oct. 26, NY – Lisa Hamp presents for the Monroe-Woodbury High School community in Woodbury, New York.

  20. Oct. 28, TX – Frank DeAngelis presents in Humble, Texas.

  21. Oct. 30, PA – Melissa Reeves hold a threat assessment workshop for LLIU13 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

  22. Oct. 31, PA – Melissa Reeves holds a threat assessment workshop for LLIU13 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

November

  1. Nov. 1, PA – Jin Kim presents Active Shooter Survival Strategies for PJM Interconnection in Audubon, Pennsylvania.

  2. Nov. 1 – Frank DeAngelis joins Raptor Technologies’ webinar and presents Leadership Lessons from Columbine and Beyond.

  3. Nov. 1, OH – Alissa Parker travels to Sylvania to present School Safety: A Parent’s Perspective for Sylvania Schools.

  4. Nov. 2, TX – Lisa Hamp presents for day-one of the  ALERRT Conference in Grapevine, Texas.

  5. Nov. 2, MD – Michele Gay presents a Parent’s Perspective for the Maryland Association of School Business Officials in Annapolis, Maryland. During this visit, Michele was awarded the President’s Award for her work to ensure safe and sound schools.

  6. Nov. 3, MD – Michele Gay presents School Safety: A Parent’s Perspective for the Association of School Business Officials in Linthicum Heights, Maryland.

  7. Nov. 4, TX – Lisa Hamp presents for day-two of the ALERRT Conference in Grapevine, Texas.

  8. Nov. 5, CA – Michele Gay presents for the Gavin de Becker Advanced Threat Assessment Academy in Lake Arrowhead, California.

  9. Nov. 7 , TX – Michele Gay presents Beyond Tragedy: Response and Recovery in a School Based Crisis for Region 7 Education Service Center in Kilgore, Texas.

  10. Nov. 9, Utah – Alissa Parker shares her story of hope and healing for Time Out for Women in St. George, Utah.

  11. Nov. 11, NY – Alissa Parker presents School Safety: A Parent’s Perspective for NYS PTA in Saratoga Springs, New York.

  12. Nov. 13, IL – Frank DeAngelis presents for Juvenile Justice Council Coordinator in Effingham, Illinois.

  13. Nov. 13, TX – Scott Poland presents Youth Suicide Prevention and Threat Assessment for the Midlothian Independent School District, in Midlothian, Texas.

  14. Nov. 14, TX – Frank DeAngelis presents at the Collin County Mental Health Symposium in Plano, Texas.

  15. Nov. 28, DC – Michele Gay presents for the ALEC Policy Summit in Washington, DC.

December

  • Dec. 3, MD – Michele Gay attends the NASRO Leadership Summit in Baltimore, Maryland.

  • Dec. 6, MD – Michele Gay visits John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

  • Dec. 11, PA – Michele Gay presented Beyond Tragedy: Response and Recovery in a School Based Crisis for the Center for Safe Schools in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

 

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 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 Security and Safety Foundation, and their “Lock Don’t Block” program by visiting www.lockdontblock.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

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

As the Safe and Sound team reflects on 2018 and looks forward to 2019, we’d like to express sincere gratitude to our supporters and partners. We are thankful for all the support we received this year, the donations and fundraisers, the new folks we’ve met and the familiar faces we reconnected with. School safety takes all hands, hearts, and minds, so we are grateful for our growing community and the awareness that our supporters, peers, and partners have worked so hard to raise alongside our organization.

 

2018 was our busiest year yet, with the doubling of our national team, even more schools using our free programs and resources, and twice the travels nationwide. With our eyes already on 2019, we’re proud to share the projects our team has been working on throughout 2018 to ring in a new year of safe and sound schools.

 

  • New Year, New Sound. Kick off 2019 with Safe and Sound Schools at Kellogg’s in New York City. Join us on January 4th for snacks, swag and selfie fun! This event is perfect for families, so bring your kids! Connect with co-founder Michele Gay, meet celebrity guest Jeremy Ray Taylor, and enjoy a musical performance by Chasing da Vinci. Sound off with a resolution for how you will make your schools safer in 2019, and follow along on social media with the hashtag #IChooseTo.

 

  • Parents for Safe Schools. We are thrilled to announce the expansion of our resources for parents. We’ve already created the Parents for Safe Schools program based on our quick and simple ideas for how parents can get involved in school safety. We’ll release the comprehensive program soon, along with more resources to help parents bridge the gap between themselves and the school or themselves and their children. We look forward to supporting more conversations and more parent involvement for safe and sound schools everywhere!

 

  • National Summit on School Safety. Join us March 28-30 for an intensive and interactive two-day summit in Houston, Texas. This event will bring together Educators; Administrators; Safety Professionals; Mental and Behavioral Health Professionals; Solution Providers; Community Members and Leaders, and span all areas of Safe and Sound’s Framework for Comprehensive School Safety: Mental and Behavioral Health; Health & Wellness; Physical Environment; Culture, Climate & Community; School Law, Policy & Finance; and Operations & Emergency Management. Register before January 15 to take advantage of early-bird tickets.

 

There’s much more to come, so be sure to follow us on social media for updates and announcements.

 

Wishing you a safe and happy new year!

Safe and Sound Schools

 

Don’t Miss the National Summit on School Safety

Safe and Sound Schools is thrilled to host our first National Summit on School Safety in partnership with the Region 4 Education Service Center, in Houston, Texas. If you haven’t already done so, save the date for March 28-30, 2019!

This event will bring together educators, administrators, safety professionals, mental and behavioral health professionals, solutions providers, and community members and leaders to learn essential tools and tactics to keep schools safe.

We will welcome national and regional experts to provide a number of resources, materials, and education to improve school safety in our communities. For a list of confirmed speakers, click here. We are working on adding more experts to our lineup and will periodically share blogs, email, and social media updates so make sure to check back in.

In the meantime we encourage you to take advantage of early bird pricing, now through December 31, 2018. Register with our partner Region 4 Education Service Center.

Sponsor the National Summit on School Safety

If you or your organization would like to join us as a sponsor of this event, sponsorship opportunities are available at a variety of levels. Check out the sponsorship opportunities here or email us at info@safeandsoundschools.org if you have questions.

We’d like to give a special shoutout to summit sponsor, Secure Schools Alliance. Thank you for supporting our mission and the inaugural National Summit on School Safety.


About Safe and Sound Schools

Safe and Sound Schools is a non-profit organization started by parents who lost their children in the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Safe and Sound Schools 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.

About Regions 4 Education Service Center

Region 4 Education Service Center (Region 4) is one of 20 regional education service centers established by the Texas Legislature in 1967 to assist school districts and charter schools in improving efficiencies and student performance. Region 4 serves a seven-county area comprised of 48 public school districts and 37 open-enrollment charter schools, representing more than 1.2 million students, 97,000 educators, and 1,500 campuses.