June is already drawing to a close. Most of us are still wondering, “How did the school year go by so quickly?”
Maybe we’re just getting older. In our defense, I hear the kids saying it too.
It’s the sign of a great school year.
Teachers are closing up their classrooms, parents are pushing the sunscreen, and kids are switching to low power mode. It’s summer.
Yet some of us are already looking ahead to next school year. In fact at Safe and Sound Schools, summer means getting to work with some of our favorite community members: administrators, safety directors, school officials, emergency managers, law enforcement, and school resource officers.
This June, Alissa and I met with law enforcement officers in Florida, SRO’s in Tennessee and Wyoming, and will soon head to California to meet with emergency managers and responders.
I first spoke to a room full of these folks in April of 2013 at the Massachusetts Juvenile Police Officers Association (MJPOA), in Norwood, Massachusetts. Though the President of the organization, now a great friend, insisted that my message be brought to the group of 400+ SRO’s, I really wasn’t sure what I had to offer.
I’m a mom, a former teacher, and the mother of three beautiful girls. My youngest was killed at Sandy Hook on December 14, 2012. My second survived, hiding in a closet with her teacher and classmates, and my oldest waited in “hard lockdown” for hours for news that she would never receive: that we were all alright.
Yes, I have a story. I can grab the heart of a room full of people with it. But I wondered, “What do I have for trained safety professionals?” “How can I help them do what they are trained and called to do?”
That April morning, I stepped up to the podium to address a room full of SRO’s. I wondered if they could see me standing behind it. I felt so small.
I opened my mouth and the words came out. My experience, my perspective, my observations. It was what I had to offer.
It was the beginning of a relationship between school resource officers and our fledgling foundation, Safe and Sound Schools. Since that day, folks like these have taken my experience and Alissa’s, our perspective and our observations, and made schools and communities safer.
Since that spring, we have steadily reserved our summers for law enforcement, emergency managers, school safety teams, and school resource officers. By listening and learning from them, I can develop more powerful resources to make it easier for them to be effective in schools. For example, SROs have a better understanding of how to speak to teachers, students and parents. They also feel appreciated by the community.
This year, it was our privilege to offer full day Safe and Sound School training to the SRO’s of Tennessee and Wyoming, and to share our story with the many of the finest law enforcement officers in Florida.
We’ll continue with these efforts and close the month with the emergency mangers of California. Together, by working with our School Resource Officers, we can accomplish great things.
So yes, summer is finally here, but our work for a safer school year–for safer futures–It’s only just begun.
– Michele Gay
Practice. Practice. Practice. This is something that we have all heard since we were young kids. If you were an athlete, you needed to practice in order to gain proficiency in your sport or prepare for a game. If you were a musician, you spent hours practicing to excel or prepare for a recital or concert. As law enforcement officers, we continually train and practice our tactics and skills for when it is needed to protect and serve the citizens in our communities.
The same principle applies to school students and staff and the emergency drills they should be practicing every year. Telling students and staff how to go into lockdown in the event of an emergency isn’t the same as properly conducting a hands-on drill where teachers practice securing their location while supervising and directing a classroom full of students. Nerves may be jumping and heart rates may increase a little during the drill, but that’s exactly what needs to happen to ensure competency in the event of an emergency.
Some questions you need to ask yourself regarding a lockdown at your school:
- How do teachers secure classroom doors?
- Does the door lock from the inside or do you have to open the door and use a key to lock it from the hallway?
- Do teachers keep keys with them at all times or are they locked in a bag or desk drawer?
- What do you do secure classroom windows?
- What do you do if one of your students is out of the room when a lockdown is initiated?
- How will staff and students react to a critical incident on the campus?
- How are they notified?
The answers to these questions shouldn’t be too difficult to determine as long as you have practiced your emergency drills. If you don’t know the answer to one or more of these questions, your drills aren’t properly preparing you.
Don’t just go through the motions of a drill to “check the box” that says you met your requirement; this does not benefit anyone, in fact it can cause more harm than good. Conduct your drills frequently and take them seriously. Remember, these drills will help you gain proficiency in the event that an critical incident occurs on your campus.
Practice. Practice. Practice…
Kevin Quinn is the past president of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO www.nasro.org), current President of the Arizona School Resource Officers Association (ASROA www.asroa.org), and a full time SRO in Arizona. Contact Kevin via email: email@example.com or @klah316 on Twitter.
Recently, one of my daughters asked me why I’ve been traveling. I rarely left our home during their little sister Joey’s lifetime. Naturally, this change has taken some getting used to for my family.
Thinking this was where she was coming from, I started explaining that traveling was an important part of my job at Safe and Sound…I travel to talk to people and work with experts and professionals on making schools safer. I reassured her that our family still comes first.
I was headed down the wrong cul-de-sac, though…
“It can’t be a job, Mommy. You’re not getting paid any money.”
I just about spat out my coffee.
“Well,” I stalled, “not all jobs pay in money, Sweetheart. Nobody pays me for doing the laundry, cooking, or grocery shopping, right? It’s just part of taking care of our family. The pay off is a happy, healthy, well-fed family.”
I paused to study her face and see how I was doing. I had her attention…
“Safe and Sound is like a home, a gathering place for members of a bigger family. People who visit our site, or invite us to their community, or help us learn and teach others, are working for the same pay off: safer schools.”
“Well, who’s in this family?”
Detecting a little jealousy, I said, “Well, you are, of course! You want schools to be safe, happy places, right? That’s why you work on safety all the time at school.”
“Well, yeah. But who else is in this family?”
“Teachers, Counselors, Principals, Firefighters, Police, Moms, Dads, Students, safety experts–anybody who wants to make schools safer,” I answered.
“Like the Colonel?”
“Huh? Oh, you mean Col. Grossman?!” Determined to keep a straight face and NOT laugh out loud, I realized she meant Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, who I had just met at his Lynchburg, VA seminar.
“Yes, he’s one of the people working hard on making schools safer. You know who else was there? A whole lot of students. They were all college students at Liberty University who want to learn too. In fact they ran the whole day and got “The Colonel” there!”
“And they’re all in the family?”
“Yep. All of ‘em.”
I’ll post more soon on my travels and the inspiring folks I have been meeting and learning from!
For a minute, I want you to close your eyes. I am going to ask you to go to a place that is difficult to go to for all of us.
Parents, I want you to imagine what it would be like to get a phone call from your child’s school informing you that there has been a shooting and that the children are currently in lockdown. School facility members, imagine the sounds you might hear the moment you realize that an intruder has entered into your school to do harm.
Police officers, superintendents, school board members, etc…, imagine that you all get that same horrific call. What does your heart feels like? Where does your mind go? Do you know the flaws and vulnerabilities of your school? Is your school ready for this? Are you ready? Do you know what you are supposed to do? Do you feel confident the school is prepared to respond?
Now I want you to make a list for me. Make a list of all the things you know in your heart haven’t been addressed or prepared for an emergency situation like this. Then I want you to look at your list and tell me how you feel.
It is a hard place to go, believe me I have experienced it first hand. I relive it every time I see news coverage after another school shooting (29 and counting since Sandy Hook) and how their community never thought something that horrible could happen to them. It is hard to really open yourself up to seeing the world you live in as a dangerous place. No one wants to feel like they are sending their children somewhere where they may be vulnerable. No one wants to work in a place they feel is dangerous. So if we all know we don’t want this problem… why do we avoid fixing the problem? When we refrain from asking the tough questions, we prevent ourselves from ever finding solutions.
Start today to help your schools improve safety. How do you begin? Our toolkits can help inform you of the steps you need to take and resources available. Start by getting an assessment done for your school. Did you know there are free assessments and resources out there? FREE!
We invite you to read through our site and get inspired to make your school safer today! If there is something you would like to see and don’t, we love feed back! We are here to help you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and challenge yourselves to ask those tough questions.