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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.

 

Working for Safe and Sound Schools means meeting and working with a lot of amazing people, but the young people we get to work with through our Safe and Sound Youth Council may just be the most fun! We love our parents, teachers, mental health, police, fire, and safety professionals no less. But for this former teacher, it’s still all about “the kids.”

In January, I was invited to Westport, Massachusetts by Briannah, a high school senior looking for help with her senior project. The topic? School safety, of course. She could have picked a million different—and worthwhile–social concerns to focus on, but for her, it was important to give back to the community where she grew up by ensuring that it would be safe for classes to come.

Since founding Safe and Sound Schools, high schoolers like Briannah have reached out to us to learn how they can be a part of our mission. It should not have surprised us that so many young people across the country would take note and reach out to join in. Yet the wisdom of these young people still takes my breath away.

They get it.

School is for them and about them. They are leaders, thinkers, creators, dreamers and problem solvers. They are our future.

So why not give them a seat at the table and watch the magic happen? Every young person that has reached out to us over the years has had a hand in developing the Safe and Sound Youth Council.  For each of them and now beneficiaries like Westport High School students, we are proud to share the exciting growth of our program. Safe and Sound Youth Councils are gearing up in Massachusetts, Connecticut, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Maryland, Utah, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Ohio, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Texas and Florida!

As I shared my story at Westport High and talked about love, loss, and learning, I watched an auditorium full of middle and high school students follow me–kind of amazing as these folks can be a tough crowd! Yet there they were, every step of the way, eager to learn and then to find out how they can be part of the solution.

As I wrapped up my talk and finished with an invitation to join our Youth Council, I scanned the crowd of young faces to see who might step up. I saw ideas, enthusiasm, and energy throughout. I saw leaders, thinkers, and change-makers ready to get started. And I saw the adults—police, teachers, counselors, staff members, and parents ready too. Ready to make room at the table. Ready to share in this work. Ready to work together to keep their school safe and sound.

Thank you to Briannah and the staff of Westport High School for hosting Safe and Sound Schools! We look forward to working and learning with you!


Michele Gay, Co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools

Students make the best teachers. They are the eyes and ears of their schools…. the leaders of movements… and the galvanizers of change. In all the years I’ve spent traveling around the country, I’ve met some incredible students who are just as inspired as we are to create a nation of safer schools.

As excited as I was to meet these students, and thrilled that they understand the need for school safety, I felt frustrated that there wasn’t a way for them to turn their ideas into action. So fueled by their passion and bright ideas, we talked to our network of experts, students, teachers and administrators to build a new program: The Safe and Sound Youth Council.

The Safe and Sound Youth Council gives students a seat at the table and brings them into the national conversation of school safety. It is a leadership program, accessible to all, and gives students the support they need to assess their school’s safety, act with smart and sustainable changes, and audit their impact. At the same time, the Safe and Sound Youth Council provides them with a foundation of credibility to help bring their ideas to life.

We hope you will check out the program page to learn more about the Safe and Sound Youth Council. Please also share this program with your networks, especially any students. The faster we can get more Safe and Sound Youth Council chapters off the ground, the closer we’ll come to creating a nation of safer schools.

So thank you to Kaia, Noah, Trey, Makenzi, Colby, Anthony, John, Julia, Olivia, James, and the countless other students who helped bring to life this unique and empowering program. At Safe and Sound Schools, we will never give up, and thanks to the new Youth Council program, we can bring the students into the conversation and foster a new generation of champions who won’t give up, either.


Michele Gay, Co-founder and Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools

 

Now that our first quarter has come and gone, we’re excited to provide you with an update of our travels and ongoing projects from January through March.

Co-founder Alissa Parker kicked off January travels with Safe and Sound board member Bob Martin and Safe and Sound advisor Tau Braun, at the Violence Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Symposium in Corpus Christi, Texas. Shortly after, Safe and Sound Schools, in partnership with the Maryland Center for School Safety, launched the Maryland School Safety Initiative. At this three-day event, co-founder Michele Gay held school safety trainings alongside Safe and Sound advisor Bill Modzeleski, Connecticut law enforcement expert Dan Jewiss, and NASP lead psychologist Ben Fernandez. Meanwhile, in the online social sphere, Safe and Sound schools discussed The Role of Technology In Today’s School Safety Landscape and ended the month with a blog inspired Emilie Parker and her love of art.

With February in full swing, Michele traveled to Illinois to meet with leaders from Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS). Following this trip, Michele headed east to Needham, Massachusetts to present on Developmentally Appropriate Safety Education before the Early Childhood Council. During the second half of February, Michele accepted a leadership award at the NASP President’s Awards and later reunited with Safe and Sound speaker Dr. Melissa Louvar Reeves to present at the 2017 NASP Conference. Shortly after, on February 25, Michele and her husband Bob attended the Champion of Life Gala in Baltimore, Maryland, hosted by the BFG Community Foundation (Safe and Sound Schools is a former recipient of the the Champion of Life Award). February travels concluded with a trip to New Jersey, where Michele presented to law enforcement leaders at the Law Enforcement Against Drugs Conference.

Other key highlights from February include the various #LoveSafety themed blog posts that captured the spirit of love, safety, and kindness. Scarlett Lewis, Safe and Sound speaker and founder of Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, shared a blog about what it means to #ChooseLove. Mills Pond Elementary Library Media Specialist, Louise Prescott, shared a blog on kindness literature. Safe and Sound Schools closed the month with a blog dedicated to sponsors.

March may have been the busiest month this quarter. March travels began with a trip to Howell, Michigan where Michele and Dr. Melissa Reeves held a reunification workshop sponsored by Safe and Sound sponsor Raptor Technologies. On March 10, Michele spent time in her home state of Maryland to present to a room full of Howard County school resource officers and administrators. A couple days later, on March 14, Safe and Sound sponsor Status Solutions hosted a school safety webinar featuring Michele Gay. Later that evening, in Westerville, Ohio, Status Solutions hosted a community event, School Safety Solutions, where Michele presented to an audience full of community members, educators, administrators, law enforcement and safety professionals. The next day, in Colorado, Safe and Sound speaker Frank DeAngelis presented on resiliency and recovery at Adams State University. Soon after, Michele was back in Massachusetts for a “School Threat Assessment and Response System” Rollout presentation hosted by the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC). On March 22, Frank DeAngelis and Kristina Anderson, founder of the Koshka Foundation, traveled to New York to present to a room full of students and faculty at SUNY Oswego. Next, Michele headed to Pennsylvania to present to school safety leaders in the Upper Saint Clair School District. The event was sponsored by Safe and Sound sponsor NaviGate Prepared. Meanwhile, Safe and Sound speaker Dr. Scott Poland also visited Pennsylvania to present at the Safe Schools Speaker Series. March travels concluded with Michele traveling back to Pennsylvania to attend the Safe Schools Symposium in Chester County.

While Safe and Sound leaders traveled to communities throughout the country in March, the communications team announced a new program for high school students, the Safe and Sound Youth Council. This program will allow Safe and Sound Schools to directly connect with high school students around the country, helping students become school safety leaders in their respective communities.

March online efforts continued with a blog celebrating Social Work Month, a blog shared in response to Jewish Community Center bomb threats, and a blog discussing school visitor management.

Safe and Sound Schools looks forward to visiting more communities in the months to come. For day-to-day updates on all things Safe and Sound, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.