Happy 4th of July. I hope you are reveling in the warm summer days. Whether you have just finished up the year, or are preparing to return, it’s never too early to think about how to do better in the next school year.
Our teachers are already thinking about new lesson plans and teaching strageties. Our parents want to help their students be more successful in the new school year. And our administrators are looking at ways to improve the educational experience and overall school performance.
Here at Safe and Sound Schools, we never stop thinking about ways to improve school safety. That’s why this summer, we’re providing daily tips to help provide you with some new ideas. Check out our #100DaysofSafety campaign on social media. It just takes one small idea to make a big difference.
During these few shorts weeks of summer, we wish peace and quiet, time with your loved ones, and an opportunity to rethink school safety and recharge for the year ahead.
Keep up with #100DaysOfSafety on our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
– Michele Gay
Yesterday was National Teacher Appreciation Day, but the celebration continues all week. This year, National Teacher Appreciation Week is from May 2-6. Teacher Appreciation Week offers principals, parents, and students a special opportunity to recognize teachers for all the amazing work they do in educating and keeping our students safe and sound year round. Although teacher appreciation doesn’t have to be limited to one day or one week, Teacher Appreciation Week serves as a great reminder of teachers’ ongoing efforts. Here’s a list of fun and thoughtful ways you can celebrate teachers this week, or any week!
- Download our Teacher Appreciation Certificate to recognize a teacher for their outstanding work.
- Join the National Education Association and the National PTA in saying “Thank You” by participating in the #ThankATeacher campaign. Snap a picture of a teacher you you’d like to recognize with the hashtag #ThankATeacher and explain why you appreciate them. Click here to learn more.
- Give teachers a break–a lunch break! Consider packing or ordering a special lunch for your child’s teacher. You’re guaranteed a smile!
- Offer to volunteer. Teachers can always use another pair of hands in the classroom or in gathering or preparing materials.
- Donate to the classroom. Classroom donations in the form of gift cards are wonderful gifts as teachers often use their own money to pay for classroom supplies and materials. Staples and Target gift cards are a popular favorite.
- Write a personalized note or card highlighting why you appreciate them.
- Send flowers. Nothing says thank you like a burst of spring blooms from your own garden or local market.
Let us know how you are celebrating teachers this week. To add to our list of ideas, share them with our audience on our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
We are an autism family. We will always be. Our daughter’s short life on earth was a journey for our family—a journey through autism into faith, hope, and compassion. Through Joey, we learned to look at the world differently, hold onto each other tightly, and love each other fiercely. Although her journey through autism came to a tragic end on December 14, 2012, we are committed to sharing with others all that she taught us. In her honor, we share our experiences and support other families on this journey through autism and work to keep ALL students safe in school.
Supporting Children and Families with Autism
Joey’s Fund is one way that we aim to support families and children living with autism. We created Joey’s Fund in honor of our daughter’s generous and compassionate spirit. While living with autism, our family relied on the support of many other families—some with autism and special needs children, and many on a more “typical” family journey. Providing direct support for other families with autism is our way of giving back in Joey’s name and thanking the many people that supported us during Joey’s life and after her tragic death. We chose the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism as the home for our daughter’s fund. The Flutie family continues their journey through autism and supports many others along the way. We are proud that Joey’s Fund is a part of their mission to serve some of the most amazing people in the world: autistic children, adults, and families. We are honored to remain a part of the autism community in this way.
Autism and School Safety
Our autistic children––with all of their gifts and challenges––are some of the most precious and vulnerable members of our communities. Most parents find that sending their child off to school alone for the first time is a great challenge. Imagine how it feels for the parents of an autistic child. Like many children living with autism, our daughter could not speak for herself and could not communicate her needs without the help of caring adults and peers. Our autistic children face all of the childhood challenges and dangers of their typical peers—and exponentially more, because of their autism.
We relied on a well-educated and highly trained school staff to keep our daughter safe on a day-to-day basis; but, it was up to us to ensure that her unique safety needs were provided for while she was in school. Her physical safety on the playground, in the classroom, and in the cafeteria required constant supervision. Like many autistic children, she loved to wander, was attracted to water, and had complex dietary requirements. Her social-emotional well-being depended upon the facilitation skills of the staff. She needed trained, caring professionals to help her play and interact with her peers in order to develop relationships and friendships and help her communicate her ideas, needs, and wants.
And let’s not forget her peers. Joey was young and lucky enough to enjoy true friendships with many of her classmates. Friends like Emilie, Jessica, James (and too many others to name!) were the highlight of her school days. There are no words to express the gift that Joey’s friends were to her and the family that loved and protected her in this life. Yet even her exceptional peers needed a great deal of support to understand and safely play with Joey. The safety of her beloved friends required the support of an attentive and caring school community.
Not a day goes by that our family doesn’t think about Joey. We consider ourselves blessed for the time we had with her and on our journey through autism. We know we are blessed to have her inspiring us in our missions: Joey’s Fund and Safe and Sound Schools, working to improve the lives and safety of precious people like her.
Michele Gay, Executive Director, Safe and Sound Schools
Photo credit: Cynthia McIntyre Photography
The Edvocate recently posted an article, School Security: Just Smoke and Mirrors?, that begs the question, “Does school security really increase safety?”
As the mother of a child killed at Sandy Hook, and a national school safety advocate, I believe that whether it does or not, depends upon a few more considerations.
Hardware, technology, and programs alone cannot improve safety and security.
It’s more than installing cameras and door locks. These pieces of hardware and technology are examples of valuable security tools available today. Security is actually a practice that requires not only tools, but education, plans, procedures and human involvement. As school security consultant Paul Timm, PSP teaches, “…products and systems play a complementary role to the real star of the show: people driven-solutions.” (School Security, How to Build and Strengthen a School Safety Program, 2015)
A locked front door combined with a buzz-in system can greatly restrict public access to vulnerable school occupants. But tools like this require a trained staff member on the other end to ensure that the door is securely locked, and to require identification and clearance of a visitor before granting access.
Just the same, cameras can serve as deterrents for negative behavior and even criminal activity in some communities, as Nancy La Vigne and her team found in a study with the Urban Institute. For many would-be perpetrators, a camera signals the risk of being caught or detected, either in the act, or in preparation; and it’s enough to change their behavior. In a recent article in Scientific American, Sander ban der Linden chronicles several scientific studies on the positive affect of merely perceived surveillance upon human behavior.
But cameras are undoubtedly more powerful with human involvement. A trained staff member to ensure the working order of cameras, monitor the live feed (or at least review it periodically), and report or address harmful or suspicious activity, can turn a camera into a tool of prevention rather than one of forensics.
Programs, Staff Development, and Curricula can make all the difference.
Beyond hardware and technology are a wealth of tools in the form of safety programming, training, guidance and curricula. These tools support school safety and security through developing a mindset for safety and preparedness in the school community.
Just as hardware and tools require support to be effective, so do programs and curricula. The best reporting and threat assessment protocols cannot address harmful actions or circumstances without adults trained to monitor, respond, and provide intervention. Just like the best anti-bullying, social emotional learning, and emergency preparedness curricula carry little weight without support and reinforcement in the school community.
Below are a several school safety programs and curricula to explore.
For truly safer schools, we have to ask tough questions like the ones The Edvocate poses in order to find a way to work together toward thoughtful answers and use the tools available to us wisely. Otherwise, school security and safety really is just smoke, mirrors, and very expensive window dressing.
To view the chart above with hyperlinks to each resource click this link: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/7223104-school-safety-resources. For more information and resources on school safety and security, visit www.safeandsoundschools.org.
–Michele Gay, Co-Founder/Executive Director, Safe and Sound Schools