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With the warm days of summer behind us (well, most of us!), we’re rounding up this quarter’s travels, talks, and noteworthy news.

In short, we were busy, covering nearly 50 cities, spanning 25 states, driving traffic to the web site, and reaching over 51,500 people from July through September. Check out the highlights!

Travel & Talks:

  • In July, FEMA shared a PrepTalk featuring Co-founder Michele Gay. In her presentation, “Rethinking School Safety,” Michele relayed her personal experience, highlighting lessons learned from the tragedy at Sandy Hook. She also presented Safe and Sound Schools’ Framework for Comprehensive School Safety Planning and Development.
  • Later in July, Co-founder Alissa Parker presented with Safe and Sound speaker and Virginia Tech survivor Lisa Hamp, joining Mandi and Harris Jaffe from Parkland at the “Community Preparedness in an Era of School Shootings” symposium in Indiana.
  • In August, Michele Gay joined national school safety leaders to participate in school safety workgroups, facilitated by the Department of Homeland Security in DC.
  • In September, Alissa Parker attended two Time Out for Women events, where she shared her story of resilience and recovery.
  • Early in September, Michele Gay was invited to keynote for the National Fire Prevention Association’s  Massachusetts School Active Shooter Symposium with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. During her presentation, Michele shared school safety concerns and challenges, stressing the need for community-wide collaboration.
  • Also in September, Alissa Parker traveled to Columbus, Ohio to deliver a keynote presentation for The Ohio School Board Association. During the school security and safety summit, Alissa shared the lessons she learned in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy and emphasized the need to address the “It can’t happen here mentality.”

Fundraising & Grants:

  • St. George Men’s Group hosted a charity golf tournament to benefit Safe and Sound Schools, raising $3,100.
  • H&H Medical hosted a summer fundraiser to benefit Safe and Sound Schools in preparation for back to school, raising $1,550.
  • Report it® awarded Safe and Sound Schools a $25,000 grant to support the development of our free programs and resources.
  • Dandelion Bakery Bistro in Glenelg, MD, hosted Safe and Sound Schools and friends for a night of food, live music, and fundraising, raising over $1,110 to support our mission of safe schools.

Thank you to all the donors whose generous donations make our work and mission possible!

Spreading Our Mission:

  • Safe and Sound Schools partnered with Raptor Technologies to conduct a parent and student survey. The survey found that a majority of students and parents have anxiety over school shootings, with 75% of parents citing that they are willing pay out of their own pockets to do something about it. In fact, when asked about prioritizing funding, both parent and student survey respondents ranked improved school security as the top priority for additional funding over academics, arts and athletics. Learn more about the findings here.
  • Safe and Sound Schools also furthered the school safety discussion with several key in media engagements. Here are are just a few: Popular Mechanics Magazine, Huffington Post, Campus Safety, Sanctuary Magazine, Security Info Watch, and WebMD.

To keep up with all things Safe and Sound, connect with us on social media and subscribe to our blog.

Want the detailed view of our community visits? Look below!

For more information regarding our speakers and presentations/workshops/trainings, click here or to book a speaker or training, contact Gina at gina@kirklandproductions.com.


July

  • Frank DeAngelis – Columbine Safety Conference in Colorado, July 7-9
  • Michele Gay – Reunification presentation and workshop for the School Safety Conference of the Old Bridge Township Public Schools in Matawan, NJ, July 11
  • Alissa Parker – Delivered keynote presentation for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, July 11
  • John Baker – Situation Awareness presentation for Allegion in Renton, WA, July 11
  • Frank DeAngelis – Columbine Safety Conference in Colorado, July 12-14
  • Frank DeAngelis – Lead speaker for the School Safety Symposium in Delaware, July 16
  • John McDonald – Presented “The world isn’t a scary place…but it is uncertain” for the New York Association for Pupil transportation in Albany, NY, July 18
  • Michele Gay – Represented Safe and Sound Schools at the Campus Safety Conference in Herndon, VA, July 19
  • Frank DeAngelis – Delivered keynote presentation for NHA in Grand Rapids, MI, July 19
  • Jin Kim – National School Safety Conference in Orlando, FL, July 23-24
  • Frank DeAngelis – Delivered keynote presentation at the 2018 University of Wisconsin Collegiate Conference in Madison, WI, July 24-25
  • Alissa Parker & Lisa Hamp – Delivered keynote presentations on “Lessons Learned: Community Preparedness in an Era of School Shootings” for inHealth, Valparaiso, IN, July 26
  • John McDonald – Delivered custom presentation for Synovia Solutions in Indianapolis, IN, July 26
  • Michele & Dan Jewiss – Presentation for the Annual SRO Conference in West Virginia
  • Jin Kim – National School Safety Conference in Orlando, FL, July 26-29
  • Frank DeAngelis – Presented for Logan County High School, Bowling Green, KY, July

August

  • Lisa Hamp  – Shared “Lessons from a Virginia Tech Survivor” for the Johnston Community College Annual Faculty & Staff Conference in Smithfield, NC, August 1
  • Michele Gay – Participated in the Department of Homeland Security Roundtable in DC, August 1-2
  • Alissa Parker – Shared “A Parent’s Perspective” and “Beyond Tragedy” for the Belton ISD Leadership Retreat in Belton, TX, July 3
  • Michele Gay – Delivered presentation on community engagement for ROE Schoolworks in Danville, IL, August 3
  • Michele Gay & Melissa Reeves – Provided reunification trainings for the Wisconsin Police Leadership Foundation’s Summer Conference in Green Bay, WI,  August 6
  • Michele Gay – Delivered keynote on reunification for the NaviGate Prepare Summer Safety Academy in Canton, OH, August 9
  • Michele Gay – Presented a reunification and community engagement keynote for the Axis Schools Safety Symposium in Lowell, MI, August 14
  • Michele Gay – Delivered a keynote presentation for the Rockhill Schools’ Family Reunification Drill in Rock Hill, SC, August 16
  • Michele Gay, CJ Huff & John McDonald – Presentations for the Southern Berkshire Regional School District in Sheffield, MA, August 27-28

September

  • Michele Gay – Police Foundation Webinar, September 6
  • Michele Gay – Shared “A Parent’s Perspective” for the National Fire Protection Agency’s Active Shooter Summit in Quincy, MA, September 6
  • Frank DeAngelis – Presentation for the Uplift International Gala in Denver, CO, September 8
  • Michele Gay – NASRO Summit in Baltimore, MD, September 10-11
  • Alissa Parker – Delivered presentation at a Time Out for Women event in Sacramento, California, September 9-10
  • Melissa Reeves – Delivered keynote on threat assessment for the Indiana Department of Education in Indianapolis, IN, September 11
  • Alissa Parker – Presented at the School Security and Safety Solutions Summit for the Ohio School Boards Association in Columbus, OH, September 12
  • Lisa Hamp – Indiana Emergency Response, Indianapolis, IN, September 13
  • Alissa Parker – Keynote presentation at the Partnering for Safe Schools: A Safety and Security Summit, hosted the Texas Association of School Boards in Austin, TX, September 13
  • Alissa Parker – Presented at a Time Out for Women event in Des Moines, Iowa, September 14-15
  • Todd Savage – Presented at PREPaRE2 in Midlothian, TX, September 17-18
  • Michele Gay – Johnson Controls Webinar, September 18
  • Michele Gay – Delivered keynote on response and recovery efforts for Mount Vernon, IN & Poseyville, IN
  • Alissa Parker – Participated in a panel discussion and delivered a presentation for the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) in Napa, CA, September 19
  • Michele Gay – Shared “A Parent’s Perspective” for the National Fire Protection Agency’s Active Shooter Summit in Easton and Worcester, MA, September 20-21
  • Alissa Parker  – Provided a Safe and Sound Youth Council and Straight-A Safety Toolkit training workshop for the Oregon PTA, in Portland, OR, September 22
  • Frank DeAngelis – Shared “Leadership Lessons from Columbine and Beyond” for the The Chancellor Summit on Teacher Education at Texas A&M International University, September 23.
  • Alissa Parker – Presented on response and recovery for the Olympic Educational Service District 114 in Bremerton, WA, September 24.
  • Michele Gay – Attended and presented at the Maryland Association of Nonpublic Special Education Facilities (MANSEF) event, September 24.
  • Michele Gay – Shared “A Parent’s Perspective” for the Monroe County Board of Education in Georgia, September 26.
  • Frank DeAngelis – Delivered a presentation to Weedsport High School community members in NY, September 25-27.
  • Scott Poland – Discussed suicide prevention and intervention for the Capital Area Intermediate Unit in Summerdale, PA, September 28.

With summer already in full swing, we are already looking forward to the second half of this year. We thought you’d appreciate a look back on our progress through April, May, and June.

  • Expert presentations– we traveled to 12 states, 17 cities, and even went to Sweden, reaching nearly 10,000 educators, emergency responders, mental health professionals, students, school staff and community members on topics ranging from physical safety to mental health and resilience. Read on below for a detailed list of our presentations and community visits.
  • Tools and Resources – we launched our first-ever State of School Safety Report to help communities better understand how parents, students, and educators view school safety threats and opportunities. We also grew our crisis response network to help schools affected by tragedies this year. We are working on several exciting projects to be announced later this year. We are deeply grateful for the generous donations of many individuals, corporate partners, and organizations that make this work possible.
  • Community SupportWe also appreciate the donations and fundraising efforts from following groups and organizations: Indian Lake Central High School, Ransom Everglades School, Oakdale High School Student Government Association, Jammin Hammer Jewelry, Building for God Foundation, and Alice’s Tea Cup.
  • Organizational Readiness – In May, Michele Gay and Alissa Parker joined the Safe and Sound’s Board of Directors for the annual Board Retreat in Boston, MA. Thank you to all of our board and team members for making the trip!  

We’ve got a lot ahead of us, from conferences to new partnerships, programs, and resources, and we are excited to share it all with you in the coming months! You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram to stay up to date with all things Safe and Sound. Thank you for your support.

Now, here’s a report on all our visits during Q2, showing you the breadth, depth, and reach of our organization’s work:

  • Alissa Parker – PublicSchoolWORKS webinar about practical ways school community members can improve school safety.
  • Dr. Todd Savage – School-Based Safety and Crisis Prevention, Preparedness, and Intervention Considerations for the Art and Science Academy in Minnesota
  • Michele Gay  – Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals
  • Michele Gay – Chinle Unified School District, on tools and ideas for safer schools and community engagement
  • Paul Tim – PublicSchoolWORKS
  • Michele Gay – ALEC task force on school safety in Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Michele Gay – Maryland Task Force on School Safety for Students with Special Needs at Ivymount School in Montgomery County, Maryland
  • Michele Gay – Marriotts Ridge High School to share the Sound Youth Council with students and parents
  • Michele Gay – Keynote at the DHI Connextions Conference in Baltimore
  • Michele Gay – school safety webinar, sponsored by Raptor Technologies.
  • Alissa Parker – attended the Dougy Center Gala Event in Portland to honor the Parker family and celebrate Emilie’s birthday; funds from the gala go toward supporting grieving families
  • Alissa Parker – North Penn School District in Landsale, PA
  • Dr. Melissa Reeves – Indiana School Safety Academy
  • Michele Gay – Secure Schools Alliance meeting in Washington, D.C., with national safety and industry leaders to develop a unified national coalition of school safety leadership
  • Frank DeAngelis – Kaufman County Office of Emergency Management on Leadership Lessons from Columbine and Beyond
  • Michele Gay – PrepTalk for FEMA alongside Kristina Anderson of the Koshka Foundation, Sarah Thompson of Save the Children and Lori Peek of the Natural Hazards Center.  You can check out Michele’s talk at https://www.fema.gov/preptalks/gay  
  • Michele Gay – Axis Communications Advisory Council in Sweden, with Safe and Sound speaker and expert Paul Timm, and national school safety expert Kevin Wren, to present to area school and safety leadership in Lund.  What an exciting opportunity to share Safe and Sound’s message and trainings internationally!
  • Frank DeAngelis – Large Unit District Association of Illinois
  • Michele Gay – Pennsylvania community leaders, educators, safety professionals, and community members
  • Michele Gay – Keansburg Schools in New Jersey
  • Michele Gay – South Carolina Association of Superintendents
  • Michele Gay – Baltimore County School safety leadership’s annual school safety conference
  • Alissa Parker – Texas Association of School Administrators Summer Conference
  • Alissa Parker – Axis/Dallas Independent School District
  • Michele Gay – National Association of School Resource Officers in Reno, NV, about Safe and Sound’s “Kids First” program on developmentally appropriate safety education
  • Jin Kin – International Center for Leadership in Education in Orlando.

Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions about our work, please reach out through info@safeandsoundschools.org.

 

With the close of this year’s first quarter, we’re excited to share an update for January, February, and March.

We started the year with a visit to Westport High School in Massachusetts. During her visit, Co-founder Michele Gay shared her story and introduced the Safe and Sound Youth Council to students and staff. Later in January, Michele made her way to Pennsylvania to present for staff and shared Safe and Sound Schools’ resources and programs with the Hazleton Area School District.

Early in February, Michele traveled to Georgetown, South Carolina, where she presented first for students and staff and then for the community. Shortly after, she traveled to Wisconsin to present for the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association. In late February, Co-founder Alissa Parker headed to the Cincinnati area, where she shared her story and practical ways to improve school safety with community members. Soon after, Michele traveled back to South Carolina to attend the South Carolina Association School Administrators School Safety Summit, where she shared her story and lessons learned in school safety. February community visits concluded in Michele’s home state of Maryland, where she attended Howard County’s school safety community meeting to advocate for funding and improved safety measures and training. Finally, Michele conducted a nationwide webinar with School Messenger, citing the power of communication capability and planning for school-based crisis management.

March community visits kicked off with a visit to Little Rock, Arkansas, where Safe and Sound Speaker and Mental Health Advisor, Dr. Stephen Brock, presented on bullying and suicide prevention for the Arkansas Mental Health in Education Association (ARMEA). The following week, Alissa traveled to Arlington, Virginia to present at the National PTA Legislative Conference, while Michele gathered with Lisa Hamp, Virginia Tech Survivor; Dr. Melissa Reeves, School-Based Mental Health Expert; Dr. CJ Huff, former superintendent of the Joplin, Missouri Schools; Kiki Lebya, Columbine survivor and teacher; John McDonald, school security and safety expert; and Mac Hardy of the National Association of School Resource Officers to kick off the Maryland School Safety Initiative, sponsored by the Maryland Center for School Safety and The BFG Foundation of Maryland. This year’s theme, Recovering the School Community from Crisis, brought together inspiring stories of recovery and resiliency and was particularly timely in the wake of several national school-based crisis. Stay tuned for more travel and trainings across Maryland as part of this year’s Maryland School Safety Initiative.

Also in March, Raptor Technologies hosted Dr. CJ Huff once again in a nationally attended school safety webinar on called “Seven Leadership Lessons.”  And the University at Buffalo hosted the 15th Annual Safe Schools Initiative Seminar, where Michele and Dr. Amanda Nickerson presented alongside Mo Canady, Safe and Sound Advisor and Executive Director for the National Association of School Resource Officers. While Safe and Sound speaker and Virginia Tech survivor, Lisa Hamp, spoke at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, Michele spoke in Wellesley, Massachusetts where she shared her story and invited community members to rethink school safety as a community. The following day, Michele traveled to Illinois to speak at the Illinois Fire Inspectors Association Conference, accompanied by Safe and Sound speaker and special advisor, Frank DeAngelis. Several days after this conference, Frank traveled to Georgia where he presented for the Eastside High School community. Later, Safe and Sound speaker Lisa Hamp traveled to Chicago to present her survivor’s story to Chicago area school leaders. The first quarter concluded with Michele and Dr. Melissa Reeves joining forces with Morris County, New Jersey school and law enforcement leaders to create a customized threat assessment matrix for assessing and managing threats to school safety.

Our first quarter was not only defined by the communities we visited and the relationships we forged during this period, it was also defined by the tragic events that took place during this time. We found ourselves deeply inspired by the student-led movements and took action to support the STOP School Violence Act of 2018. We also launched a national survey focusing on school safety perceptions and are currently analyzing the data to provide insights in the form of our first annual “State of School Safety” report to help school communities better tackle the myriad challenges of school safety. Stay tuned for our findings later in the spring.

To support Safe and Sound Schools and our mission, you can share our materials, donate, shop our School Store, or purchase an Inspire Change bracelet from Jammin Hammer Jewelry. Learn more about Jammin Hammer’s fundraiser for Safe and Sound Schools, here.

Now that we are well into the second half of the year, it’s time for a second quarter update, covering the months of April, May, and June. Feeding off the momentum we gained during our first quarter, we continued our efforts of empowering communities to improve school safety.  

April was a particularly meaningful month with the release of co-founder Alissa Parker’s book, An Unseen Angel: A Mother’s Story of Faith, Hope, and Healing After Sandy Hook. With an emphasis on Alissa’s faith and spirituality, the book chronicles Alissa’s journey of finding peace and forgiveness after losing her daughter, Emilie Parker, during the Sandy Hook tragedy. An Unseen Angel introduces readers to a caring, wise, and emotionally sensitive little girl whose colorful spirit continues empower her family and many others.

While Alissa promoted her book in April, co-founder Michele Gay was joined by Safe and Sound Speaker, Frank DeAngelis in San Francisco, California. Michele and Frank presented on community collaboration for safer schools at the Sonitrol Gold Standard Safety Symposium.

In May, the Safe and Sound Schools Board of Directors convened in Boston, Massachusetts, to discuss strategy and upcoming projects. Community visits continued throughout May, with Alissa presenting in front of the Northwest Superintendent Organization in Grove City, Pennsylvania. Soon after, Mo Canady, Safe and Sound Advisor and Executive Director of NASRO, attended the Police Week Candlelight Vigil in Washington DC. Around the same time, Michele presented on reunifying the school community and shared her post-tragedy perspective at the 2017 Governor’s Safety and Health Conference Exposition in Kentucky. Soon after, Michele was joined by Safe and Sound Speaker, CJ Huff in Indiana. During their trip to the Indiana School Safety Specialists Academy, CJ and Michele presented to over 900 educators and law enforcement officials, focusing their keynote on community recovery and engagement. In Oklahoma, new Safe and Sound Speaker, Lisa Hamp, attended Moore High School’s Prep Rally. Later in May, Michele resumed travels and was joined by Natalie Hammond and Dan Jewiss in Massachusetts to present for MASBO/CASBO on improving school community preparedness, response, and recovery. May travels came to an end with a trip to the Massachusetts Association of Crime Analysts 20th Annual Training Conference and a trip to a School Safety Conference in Mt Vernon, Virginia.

Although May was a very busy month, community visits continued in June. ​Frank DeAngelis presented at the Oklahoma School Security Conference and discussed school safety leadership. Soon after, Frank traveled to Wisconsin to present at a School Resource Officer Conference. Frank continued his presentations in New York for the New York City Public Schools. This time, he was joined by Michele Gay and John-Michael Keyes of the “I Love U Guys” Foundation. Soon after, Michele and Frank traveled to Iowa to present on their Sandy Hook and Columbine experiences for the Iowa School Resource Officers. June travels concluded in Washington DC where Michele presented at the GovSummit Public Policy Conference, an event hosted by the Security Industry Association (SIA) in cooperation with the Congressional School Safety Caucus.

While our team traveled from state-to-state, our online efforts focused on topics like sexual assault, summer camp safety, online safety, EMS, and celebrating America’s teachers. In June we launched our #100DaysOfSafety campaign for the second year in a row. You can follow the hashtag on our social media channels to receive daily safety tips all summer long.

As we continue to visit communities in the months to come and you prepare for back-to-school, there’s a new resource available for the students in your community: Safe and Sound Youth Council. This complete program for high school students allows them to join the conversation, and more importantly, take action toward creating safer schools. We hope you will share this new program with your students and encourage them to take part.

To keep up with Safe and Sound Schools on daily basis, connect with us on social media.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  In recognition of mental health as one of the most important pieces of school safety today, we asked Safe and Sound advisors, Dr. Melissa Reeves and Dr. Stephen Brock to weigh in on what they see in our K-12 schools today.

Safe and Sound Schools:  Drs. Reeves and Brock, what are the top 5 mental health issues and themes you see in our K-12 schools currently?

Drs. Reeves and Brock:  It’s difficult to pick just 5, but these make up a great deal of the mental health work we are seeing in the field of K-12 School Safety today.

Two key mental health challenges our schools are facing are:

1. Suicidal ideation and behavior among students.

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the CDC, rates have significantly increased since 2008 (after over a decade of decline). Nineteen states have passed laws requiring suicide prevention education for educators, the most recent being California. On September 26, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 2246 which requires all schools serving students from grades 7 to 12 to adopt comprehensive suicide prevention policies (that address suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention).

2. Increased anxiety due to demands and social pressures.

Academic demands continue to increase and students are feeling the pressures to take more challenging classes. Social pressures, the constant comparisons to others via social media, and readily available access to information for which children and youth may not be ready to comprehend and process, are all contributing to higher levels of anxiety. Schools are beginning to teach students anxiety management strategies to better cope with these stressors.

On the positive side, these are three trends we see schools taking to address mental health in schools:

1. Integration of mental wellness into the curriculum.

Social emotional learning (SEL) programs not only help to keep our young people psychologically well, they have been shown to improve academic performance and decrease referrals for negative behaviors.

2. Prompt identification and treatment of mental illness.

Half of all lifetime cases of mental illnesses emerge during the school years (by age 14). The school environment is the perfect setting for early identification. Universal mental wellness screenings should become as common as vision and hearing screenings.

3. Increasing mental health services and staffing in schools.

Research shows that mental health treatment compliance increases 21 times when it is provided in a school vs. in a community setting. School-employed mental health professionals can work directly with students to learn social-emotional skills that increase social competence and academic achievement, and decrease mental health challenges.

 


Dr. Reeves is President of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and speaker and advisor for Safe and Sound Schools. Dr. Brock is the former President of NASP and speaker and advisor for Safe and Sound Schools.

We asked Scarlett Lewis, mother of Jesse Lewis and founder of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation to share some reflections with us this month…

February is the month of love. When we think of love, we think about our families, friends, pets, flowers…the things that makes us smile. Love makes us feel good.

What’s more, you can choose love.

The first step is to begin to think about what you think about. Just be aware of the steady stream of thoughts going in and out of your mind. Research shows that in general, we have between 60 and 80,000 thoughts per day. The majority of these thoughts (70%) are angry, not productive and don’t serve us. Up to 90% of our thoughts are repetitive. They are the same thoughts we had yesterday, the day before, the week before, and sometimes even years before! We know that every thought we have impacts us on a cellular level and affects our general well-being. Knowing this, we realize the importance of choosing love!

Although we don’t often think about it, love is a conscious choice. We make this choice, or not, many times during the day. Every time we choose love, we benefit mentally by firing corresponding neurons in our brain, and releasing feel good neurochemicals. We benefit physically as well, by strengthening our immune system, lowering our blood pressure and improving heart health.  Emotionally, we experience greater happiness, deeper meaning, and more satisfaction in our lives.

When you have a negative or angry thought, you can actually change it into a loving thought. A lot of times we use negative self talk. “I can’t believe how dumb I am.” “I am unattractive.” “I am unlovable.” Would you say these things to a friend? Of course not. You can change this negative self-talk to, “I will learn from my mistakes.” “My inner beauty is reflected on my outside as well.” and, “I am worthy of love.”

If you find yourself remembering something that made you angry in the past, ask yourself if it is worth negatively impacting your health or even empowering the person who might have made you angry? When we dredge up negatives from the past, our body responds as if it is happening right now. Our hearts beat quicker, our cheeks flush and we feel the same anger coming back. Stop there. Choose love. Take your power back and choose a different thought.

An easy shortcut to choosing love is to think of something you’re grateful for when you’re feeling angry or sad. It’s impossible to have a grateful thought and an angry thought at the same time.

Perhaps the best way to choose love is to do something for someone else. Research shows that doing for others promotes social connection and cultivates relationships. When we do something for someone else it counteracts depression, anger and anxiety. It increases our self-confidence and gives us a sense of purpose. In fact, studies have shown practicing compassion in action increases your lifespan. All the love and energy we give out, comes back to us, and the personal benefits are countless.

This is the perfect month to start choosing a loving thought over an angry thought. That is how the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement began. I found a message my six year old son, Jesse, had written on our kitchen chalkboard shortly before he was murdered in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He wrote, “Nurturing Healing Love.” I knew if his killer had been able to give–and receive love–that this tragedy would never have taken place.

At Jesse’s funeral, I told the congregation that I believed the whole tragedy started with an angry thought. And an angry thought can be changed. I asked everyone to “think about what they were thinking about,” and choose one loving thought over an angry thought every day.

Some of those in attendance told me that this one simple act has transformed their lives. Choosing to change just one angry thought into a loving thought a day, will help you feel better, will benefit those around you, and through the ripple effect will help make the world a safer, more peaceful and loving place.

Choose Love.


 

Learn more about the life’s work of Scarlett Lewis and the movement that her son Jesse has inspired at jesselewischooselove.org!

Scarlett Lewis, Founder of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation, mother of Jesse Lewis, and Safe and Sound speaker/instructor, shares our dedication to the safety of children. Here she talks about her mission and Jesse’s legacy, teaching love and compassion to prevent violence and promote peace.

After the shooting death of my 6 year old son, Jesse Lewis, along with 19 of his classmates and 6 educators, two questions emerged from my shock and horror: How could something like this happen? What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

I watched as people began pointing fingers, first at the shooter, his mother, and then at guns, politicians, video games and media—all to no avail. When blaming and demanding that others fix the problem doesn’t work, what then?  We must take responsibility for what is happening to our children and in our society. We must be part of the solution. The truth is that every school shooting is preventable. Period.

nurturing-healing-loveBefore Jesse’s funeral, I found a message he had written on our kitchen chalkboard shortly before he died, “Norturting Helinn Love” (Nurturing Healing Love). Those three words are in the definition of compassion across all cultures. Love is as necessary to our healthy existence as food and water. This need unites and connects us all as humans. What if we could infuse our classrooms with love and teach all children how to give, and receive love?

The hard fact of the matter is, some children do not receive love at home and in their lives. I set out to figure a way to get Jesse’s message into classrooms with my understanding that if the shooter knew how to give, and receive love, our tragedy would never have happened. I found that this was already being done, through Social and Emotional Learning, “SEL”.

SEL has been around for decades and teaches children how to get along with one another, how to manage their emotions, have empathy for others and show compassion – basically how to be responsible and kind citizens. Children and adults without these skills suffer from feeling a lack of connection to others, impaired–if not disabled–ability to learn, increased physical and mental health issues, and increased rates of drug abuse and incarceration among other negative implications.

Studies show that children who receive SEL have better academic performance, more positive attitudes and behaviors, and experience less anxiety and depression. Long-term studies following kindergarteners who were taught Social and Emotional Learning skills into adulthood have found there were higher graduation rates and even less divorce rates among these individuals. In fact ALL the research on SEL shows that this is the most powerful and proactive mental health initiative we have, and cultivates safer and more positive classroom and school climates.

When I think about what we focus on in schools other than academics: anti-bullying, drug awareness, suicide prevention, sex education, it looks to me like we are teaching kids what not to do. Social and emotional learning teaches kids what to do by providing a positive focus on tools and skills that can help children feel good, about themselves and others.

Columbia University did a study recently that showed for every $1 invested in SEL programs there was an $11 return to the community. I can’t think of a better investment –in our children, in our safety, and in our futures. In fact, SEL has proven to be more important than academics, when determining future success. When children have these skills, personal and academic achievement follows.

The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement is committed to making sure every child has access to this life-changing and life-saving education. This fall we are piloting our signature Choose Love Enrichment Program, Pre-K through 12th grade, that includes SEL, Character Values, Positive Psychology, Neuroscience, Mindfulness and more. The Choose Love Enrichment Program teaches children a formula to choose love in every situation, based on Jesse’s message. This is offered online and is free at www.jesselewischooselove. org.


Scarlett Lewis, Founder of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation, mother of Jesse Lewis, and Safe and Sound speaker/instructor

1The Safe and Sound Team has been busy this quarter. Guided by our mission of empowering communities to improve school safety, we’ve continued our travels, flying near and far to speak and work with communities and professional groups across the country .

July travels kicked off with a trip to Robertson County, Tennessee, where Michele presented to district staff preparing for the start of a safe school year. Then it was off to Littleton, Colorado, where Safe and Sound speaker, Frank DeAngelis, and co-founder Michele Gay attended The Briefings: A National School Safety Symposium, hosted by the I Love U Guys Foundation at Columbine High School.

On July 21, Safe and Sound board members convened in Boston, Massachusetts to reflect upon the progress and future plans for the organization. A couple days later, Michele attended the Campus Safety East Conference in Washington D.C., where Safe and Sound was represented along with several other school safety non-profits, thought leaders, and industry representatives. Soon after, Michele headed back to Tennessee to present to the Bledsoe County district staff, as they finalized preparations for the 2016-17 school year. July travels concluded with Michele keynoting for the Kentucky Firefighters Association, where she was able to spend time with many dedicated professionals and educators.

2In August, Michele traveled to the Cypress-Fairbanks Schools in Texas and presented to a room full of district leaders and educators. Michele also traveled to the Maryland School Safety Center and Indiana Academy of Safety Specialists to present and teach. In Long Beach, California, board member, Bob Martin represented Safe and Sound Schools and spoke to an audience of emergency managers, educators, and safety & security professionals at the Campus Safety West Conference.

September brought the “official” start of school for many, beginning with visits to Virginia where Michele and Dr. Melissa Reeves, led two full day reunification workshops for area educators, safety directors, law enforcement and mental health professionals. Later in the month, Michele traveled to Columbus Ohio to present a webinar and hold a community forum sponsored by Status Solutions.

September ended with the addition of Natalie Hammond to the Safe and Sound Schools speaking team. Natalie presented for the Tennessee Department of Education’s “Creating Compassionate Schools” conference, sharing her perspective and personal journey as a survivor of the Sandy Hook School tragedy. She was very warmly received and praised by all in attendance. We are deeply honored to have Natalie with us, sharing her experience and dedication to safe schools.

The Safe and Sound team continued engaging the national community with #100DaysOfSafety, a summer social media campaign, aimed at providing online users with 100 safety tips over the course of 100 days. With the end of  #100DaysOfSafety, Safe and Sound Schools launched #ChangeForSchoolSafety –a campaign aimed encouraging community members to collect loose change and donate their collections to Safe and Sound Schools this year on #GivingTuesday, November 29.

Perhaps the one of the biggest highlights of our third quarter was the addition of Status Solutions to the Safe and Sound community. Thank you to the Status folks for supporting and sharing our mission of safer schools nationwide. We look forward to working together to spread the word and empower even more school communities.

For day-to-day updates on all things Safe and Sound, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. For information on our current campaigns, visit our website to learn about #ChangeForSchoolSafety and #GivingTuesday. Be a part of the change for school safety!

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January, February, and March have come and gone with Safe and Sound Schools bringing its message to new communities and new social media channels.

This year’s first quarter started with the culmination of the Shine A Light for Safer Schools campaign, the holiday fundraiser we launched last November. Safe and Sound Schools raised over $3,500 through online and mail donations, some of which has already been used to update our free online materials and website.

By mid January, Safe and Sound Schools turned its focus to onboarding new students from PRLab, Boston University’s student-run public relations agency. This is Safe and Sound Schools’ fourth time working with PRLab students who help the organization meet its outreach initiatives.  We are lucky to have such great talent from BU to support our growing organization!

In the months of February and March, Safe and Sound team members travelled to several communities across the country. Michele travelled across the state of Tennessee, presenting to full houses of school administrators, educators, mental health professionals, and law enforcement in Knoxville, Murfreesboro, and Jackson, Tennessee. She then made her way to the Midwest to present to an audience of over 150 at the 2016 Tuscarawas County School Safety Summit in Tuscarawas County, Ohio. Michele concluded her February travels in Baltimore, Maryland. Joined by her husband, Bob Gay, Michele accepted a $20,000 endowment award from the BFG Community Foundation, an organization dedicated to affecting positive change in local communities by supporting charitable organizations.

In early March, Frank DeAngelis, Safe and Sound speaker & former principal of Columbine High School and Paul Timm, Safe and Sound advisor & author of School Security:  How to Build and Strengthen a School Safety Program, presented at the Axis School Safety Symposium in Syracuse, NY.  On the same day, Michele traveled back to the South, to Decatur, Alabama, where she presented to a room of approximately 400 administrators, educators, law enforcement, and mental health professionals at the 14th Annual Alabama Child Safety Conference.

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By mid March, Safe and Sound Schools launched it’s new website, complete with new additions, including a Press Room, Speaker’s Bureau, and an improved user-friendly interface.  We’ll continue to add to the site this year.

March also found us busy in Massachusetts, with Michele attending the Massachusetts Juvenile Police Officers Association conference and working with three local school districts, to support the unique efforts of each community to improve school safety.  We are excited to see our collaborative model take hold close to home and across the country!

Communications efforts continued with Safe and Sound Schools using social media platforms to celebrate social work month, highlighting and celebrating the contributions and positive impact social workers have on school safety and children. We concluded March and social work month with featured guest blogger & Safe and Sound Schools advisor, Shari Nacson, a Cleveland-based clinical social worker specializing in child development.

To keep up with Safe and Sound Schools daily, connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and now, Instagram. Stay tuned for more about our spring travels and additions to our new speaker’s bureau in the next quarter.