May marks the fifth anniversary of our organization’s start, and it was important to us to mark the occasion with something meaningful to show our progress and highlight opportunities for improvement in school safety. True to our mission, we wanted to create something useful and practical, with the potential for immediate benefit to communities throughout the country.
From this need, we developed the idea to issue a report on “The State of School Safety” to provide insights and bring to light perspectives from parents, students, educators (teachers, administrators, staff, mental wellness professionals, and SROs), and the general public. After all, school safety isn’t one person’s job – we all share in the responsibility to keep our students safe.
In addition, as you know, the Straight-A Safety Improvement model starts with “assess” as the first step. The State of School Safety Report is an assessment of sorts… the first collective step we took on behalf of school communities throughout the country. Let’s face it, if we don’t have a good handle on what is going on, how can we really address it?
The State of School Safety Report illustrates several school safety issues communities need to address, such as communication between educators and other stakeholders (particularly parents and students), student dissatisfaction with current safety conversations and actions at their schools, the need to broaden our current narrow view of safety issues and gain more input from the entire school community, and finally, dive deeper into the unique challenges of smaller schools.
We know there is no one-size-fits-all approach to school safety, but we hope you can use this report to start a conversation in your community. See if our national findings ring true for your school, or if your specific school community has other school safety priorities. You can read a summary of the research in our press release, or download the full report at www.safeandsoundschools.org/research. Thank you for all you do to improve the safety in our schools.
We know that you, too, are committed to the safety of the entire school community – where your child, or a child you know, goes to school – and beyond. If you have never supported our sweeping efforts to address the safety of schools across the complete spectrum, and in ways that reach every single school community, would you consider doing so today? A donation in any amount sustains our mission of making all of our schools safe and sound. If you would like to make a donation to help us mark our fifth anniversary, you can do so by clicking the button below. Thank you.
- Students are dissatisfied with the state of school safety and see it very differently from educators and parents.
- Our current state of readiness against safety threats is too narrow, with not enough input from the entire school community.
- A difference in safety perceptions exists among schools with fewer than 500 students.
NEWTOWN, Conn.—May 7, 2018—Safe and Sound Schools (SASS), a nonprofit organization that delivers crisis-prevention, response and recovery programs for schools, today published its “State of School Safety Report 2018,” the results of its first-ever survey exploring perceptions of safety at schools among parents, students, educators, and the general public. The findings outline perceptions among stakeholders, and looks at the current state of threats, from threats received to future threats, as well as preparedness for those safety risks.
The first major finding of the survey is that a substantial communication gap exists between educators and other stakeholders, namely parents and students. Educators are more confident in their overall preparedness, safety and ability to handle a wide array of safety threats, perceived shortcomings, expertise and communications than other stakeholder groups. This confidence, however, translates into a knowledge gap for others in the school community.
“The State of School Safety survey points to the need for educators and administrators to focus on simple, honest communication to parents and students, and listen more to their concerns and feedback,” said Michele Gay, executive director and co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools. “Opening up avenues for communication will empower school communities to bring to light additional vulnerabilities and solutions, speed up implementation of safety initiatives and reduce anxiety associated with lack of knowledge.”
In this figure from the State of School Safety Report, we see educators report higher levels of feeling “extremely or very safe” with their level of preparedness for any safety incident, as compared to parents, students, and the general community.
Additional survey highlights include:
- Students deserve a seat at the school-safety table. Only half of students surveyed feel safe when they are at school. Students also believe their school is in denial that it could be in danger, and more than half of students surveyed think there is a lack of awareness about school safety issues and that their school has a false sense of security that things happening around the country couldn’t happen in their school.
- Threat assessment must be broadened beyond school-based shootings to include other common threats to school safety. These include bullying, weather, physical abuse, suicide, and racially- or minority-focused vandalism. All four respondent groups reported having seen more of these threats than other threats.
- Schools need to involve a team of experts in planning. When asked who is responsible for school safety in their communities, parents, students, educators and general community members had different rankings, assigning different levels of accountability among the wide range of school safety stakeholders. By bringing together experts in mental health and wellness, school resource officers, public safety officials, students, parents and school-based teachers and staff, school communities can garner greater awareness for what is working—and what is not—in school safety.
- A difference in safety perceptions exists among schools with fewer than 500 students. Educators at small schools—those with fewer than 500 students—report that students feel safe at school at a higher rate than their peers at larger schools. However, students at smaller schools are also less aware of their schools’ safety team and report constrained financial resources.
Michele Gay and Alissa Parker founded Safe and Sound Schools on May 3, 2013, after their respective daughters, Josephine Gay and Emilie Parker, were killed in the tragic Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn. The State of School Safety Report marks the fifth anniversary of the organization’s founding, and highlights progress made and opportunities for improvement in school safety. The survey, conducted in early 2018, received 2,872 respondents across four main stakeholder groups: parents of students, students in middle or high school, educators (teachers and other professionals working in schools), and the public at large.
“We live in a climate of anxiety, fear and frustration when it comes to school safety, yet the people who matter most aren’t necessarily heard from,” said Alissa Parker, co-founder of SASS. “Our report has the power to be incredibly instructive for schools across the U.S., as we’ve identified opportunities for near-term improvements. Most important, it shows that we need to give teachers, students, educators and communities the space to bring their insight and ideas to the table in conversations about their school safety plans. By improving communication among a wider range of stakeholders, we can inherently improve our expertise and training.”
Safe and Sound Schools will continue its work to improve overall awareness and resources supporting crisis prevention, response and recovery for improved school safety. To read the full report, please visit the Safe and Sound Schools research page: www.safeandsoundschools.org/research.
About Safe and Sound Schools
Founded in 2013, Safe and Sound Schools works with school communities and mental health, law enforcement, and safety professionals to create and ensure the safest possible learning environment for all youth. The non-profit organization, started by parents who lost their children in the tragedy at Sandy Hook, delivers crisis-prevention, response, and recovery programs, tools, and resources, backed by national experts, to educate all members of the school community, from students and parents, to teachers and administrators, to law enforcement and local leaders. Winner of the 2015 SBANE New England Innovation Award for nonprofits, Safe and Sound Schools continues to answer the growing needs of school communities with custom programs, assessments, and training, reaching schools in every state in the country. For more information, visit www.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.
Safe and Sound Schools wants to hear from you about the state of school safety in your community. We are launching a national survey to measure perceptions of school safety among parents, students, and educators. We hope you will take a few minutes to complete the survey by Friday, March 9. The survey only takes 5 minutes, and your responses will be anonymous. The survey can be found here (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/572KSWJ).
Safe and Sound Schools will publish a report on the survey findings in the spring. We hope the insights gained from this research will help school communities better tackle the challenge of school safety. As you well know, this is an issue that affects our entire country, and with your help, we can make a difference. And please, if you care about this issue, please ask your friends, family, and school communities to take this survey as well. The more people who participate, the better, as we’ll have an even-more clear look at the state of school safety.
Thank you for your time.
Michele and Alissa