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

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.

 

My heart is heavy. After learning about these recent suicides, I feel like I’m not doing enough. I’m sharing my story, but maybe I’m not sharing it with the people who need my help the most.  If you haven’t been impacted by a shooting, it’s natural to wonder, how did this happen? Why didn’t they seek mental health resources? The answer is not so simple.

As a physically uninjured survivor from the Virginia Tech shooting, I’m often told that I’m lucky. “Lucky” totally resonates with me. I feel lucky that I walked out of Norris Hall on April 16, 2007 unharmed. But it is important to recognize that “lucky” doesn’t correspond to an easy recovery journey.

It feels very selfish to ask for mental health resources when others were killed or wounded. But the truth is, physically uninjured survivors need help. Often, we as physically uninjured survivors, are in denial that we need resources or recognition. We have trouble raising our hands and advocating for ourselves. After trauma, it is so difficult to see clearly.

The psychological impact from mass shootings is difficult to measure. It can’t be measured quantifiably, like the number of gun shots fired. The psychological impact from mass shootings is close to impossible to see. We can’t see mental health the same way we see physical wounds and injuries. Mental health is something we feel.

For many shooting survivors, the feeling of safety in public is stripped the instant the gun shots are fired. It usually takes years to rebuild. In the interim, it is replaced with terror, sadness, loneliness and self-doubt. Survivors have to figure out how to deal with these feelings while regaining a sense of safety. We have to deal with anniversaries that evoke intense emotion and bring back traumatic memories from the tragedy. The thought of “moving forward” can be overwhelming and feel impossible.

It is common for survivors to create hierarchies of pain in their minds. Individuals who lost family members at the top, followed by physically injured survivors. We put ourselves, physically uninjured survivors, at the bottom. We start to think we don’t need resources, because others are experiencing more pain than we are. We start to think we should just suck it up and move on.

But what we need is quite the opposite. We need to feel validated that something traumatic happened to us. We need therapy dogs to pet and shoulders to cry on. We need good listeners. We need each other – fellow survivors.  We need our families and friends. It requires a village to get through recovery after a traumatic event. But so often, we don’t have that village. Most people will return to their daily routines and try to forget the horrific events of the past. But we as survivors, we will never forget.

By now, there are thousands of survivors of mass shootings, parents who lost loved ones, and law enforcement officers and medics who responded to these tragic events. These people may think for a long time that they weren’t impacted by the event. But while they may have escaped physical wounds, the mental wounds run deep. They may walk wounded for months, sometimes years, before realizing the impact the shooting had on them.

The most recent and public losses of survivors in Parkland and Sandy Hook remind us all that this road is long and it takes strong support and connectedness to survive the mental injuries of tragedy and loss. Our hearts and prayers are with these victims and their families today and always.


Author

Lisa Hamp, Virginia Tech survivor and Safe and Sound speaker

According to ED100, each year, we spend about 6,000 hours awake. Children will spend 1,000 of those hours in school not including after-school programs. National Poison Prevention Week, running from March 17-23, gives us a friendly reminder to discuss some of the hazards hidden in hallways of schools across the globe.

Asbestos

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, close to 132,000 primary and secondary schools are still housing asbestos containing materials (AMCs). While some may feel asbestos is a problem of the past that does not affect students, many may feel differently after reading the following facts:

  • Asbestos is a known carcinogen and was used abundantly and frequently in buildings like homes, offices, and schools until the 1980s. The majority of public and private school facilities across the nation were erected during the era of abundant asbestos use.
  • There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. School districts are mandated to test for asbestos, however, if not at the “level deemed dangerous” no action to eliminate the hazard needs to be taken.
  • In schools, asbestos is popularly found in ceilings and floor tiles, ventilation systems, caulking and adhesives, or sealants and insulation. Due to high foot traffic and building usage, the potential for ACMs decaying very high in schools. When these places become damaged, fibers are released and once inside the organs of the body, cancerous masses can form.
  • Asbestos can remain in the air between 48 and 72 hours, and anyone in close proximity can be at risk for aggressive diseases associated with asbestos, like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls

Polychlorinated Biphenyls or PCBs refer to a number of chemicals that were banned in the United States in 1979. Although PCBs have been banned for many years, many materials used historically throughout school construction still contain various levels of these toxins. Here are some facts regarding PCBs and the dangers they still pose on society and our classrooms today:

This National Poison Prevention Week, we encourage everyone to be more cognizant of the hazards that exist in the environments around you. A school is a safe haven where students, faculty and parents should all feel safe, and we should do all we can to ensure our school buildings are a healthy place for growth and learning.


Guest Author: Bridget Rooney is a communications specialist with Mesothelioma.com where she works to educate the public on the dangers of asbestos and other toxins found in the home.

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

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.