Posts

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.

Dear Senator Hatch and Senator Klobuchar:

On behalf of Safe and Sound Schools, and our national community of schools, educators, parents, students, law enforcement officials, community members, mental health experts, and safety professionals, I would like to express our strong support for the Students, Teachers and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018, introduced in the Senate.

I am the mother of Josephine Grace Gay, killed in her first-grade classroom at Sandy Hook School, and the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Safe and Sound Schools. Our group of parents, survivors, teachers, and community members founded Safe and Sound Schools after losing our children and beloved teachers in the Sandy Hook School tragedy. Since our founding, we have been joined by national experts, health and safety practitioners, health and mental health experts, leading law enforcement and public safety professionals, school leaders, parents, students, community members, survivors, and victims of school-based tragedies. Our focus has always been —and will always remain— on school safety.

Despite a critical lack of funding for and attention to school safety in recent years, we have been working tirelessly and persistently in schools and professional communities across the nation since our tragedy to provide free tools, resources, education and training. In less than five years, we have reached every state in the nation and thirteen countries.  We work with and alongside organizations such as The Secure Schools Alliance, The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools, the National Association of School Resource Officers, the National Association of School Psychologists, the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, Save the Children, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide a truly comprehensive approach to school safety that spans crisis prevention, response, and recovery.

Our schools desperately need this help.

The STOP Act answers a long overdue and nationwide need for school safety funding to provide critical infrastructure improvements, evidence-based education, training, and support, and modern-day security tools and technology that support comprehensive school safety. By reviving and significantly expanding grants through the U.S. Department of Justice, The STOP Act will greatly help schools struggling to implement critical safety programs and security measures, authorizing $100 million in funding per year through 2028. Such critically needed assistance has remained unavailable to our schools for far too long. The bill also updates the program to help schools utilize the most effective technology, equipment, training programs and technical assistance that align with the unique needs of each school community.

Sadly, our nation’s schools no longer represent a safe haven for our children and teachers. Instead, they represent targets for mass violence. We know this firsthand. We recognize that there will not be one single measure or action to solve the complex issues and factors that contribute to epidemic of mass violence. It will take many solutions and a truly layered approach to return our schools to safety. Therefore, we continue to advocate for a comprehensive approach to school safety and security in response to best prevent, respond to, and recover our school communities from such tragedies.

In our travels and work across the country, it is clear that ensuring safety has become an immediate and growing concern for students, parents, teachers, administrators and mental health and law enforcement professionals. Although progress has been made in identifying best practices and effective measures, our school communities struggle to implement these recommendations due to budget constraints, staffing challenges, aging facilities, and of course, educational priorities.

While federal assistance alone could never fully address these needs, it’s a start.

The STOP Act will save lives. Thank you for your thoughtful leadership in addressing the crisis facing our nation’s schools. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues in Congress to inform and support your efforts to restore our schools to safety.

Sincerely,
Michele Gay
Co-Founder/Executive Director
Safe and Sound Schools
(Joey’s mom)