They are starting… those adorable “first day of school” photos shared via social media. Although it seems like we were just kicking it off, the days of summer have just about flown by across the country. Whether your school has already started or is set to start soon, it’s safe to say that the “Back to School Season” is underway.

But “Back to School” means something more than just binders and backpacks to the Safe and Sound Schools team and community across the country. We’re all focused on making sure the start of the school year is safe.

Administrators, educators, mental health workers, SRO’s, and school staff have spent the summer preparing for a safe school year at conferences, trainings, and planning meetings. Background checks, interviews and screenings have been conducted for new hires. Building updates and improvements have been completed and staff development and trainings have been conducted.

Teachers have been planning and preparing for a welcoming, inclusive learning environment and a safe school experience for incoming students. Local law enforcement, emergency management, and fire safety professionals have been training in and inspecting school buildings. School nurses, nutritionists, and cafeteria staff have been busy stocking shelves and planning for the special needs of students; and transportation personnel have planned routes, stops, and emergency plans for another year.

So as you “like” and “share” those adorable #FDOS photos, we hope you are also appreciating the behind-the-scenes work that helps foster a safer school community!

Good luck to parents and students ticking off the Back to School shopping list and settling back into the new routine. The start of the school year is a busy time for families and school communities everywhere. As another new year begins, remember to take note of the many school safety measures and practices in place around you and give thanks to some of the hard working folks behind them!


NEW PHILADELPHIA, OhioAug. 18, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — In preparation for the 2016-17 school year and with a concern for safety few schools can imagine, the Newtown Public School District in Newtown, CT has implemented a cloud-based school safety system that directly connects first responders with a school’s critical safety information.

The system – known as NaviGate Prepared® – stores important school safety plans and associated information, such as call lists, personnel photos, building maps, detailed floor plans, 360-degree photographs of key building areas, including life-safety and shut-off valve locations and more, in a secure cloud environment. It offers authorized users and first responders, including 911 dispatchers, immediate, real-time access to this information – from any Web-authorized device. No matter the severity of the situation, NaviGate Prepared ensures necessary safety information is accessible, even if a building is not.


Sandy Hook Elementary

The NaviGate Prepared school safety technology has been implemented throughout the Newtown Public School District, including the newly rebuilt Sandy Hook Elementary School. Photo credit: Town of Newtown.

“Newtown, like all districts across the country, works diligently with safety officials to provide an optimal environment for teaching and learning,” said Superintendent Joseph Erardi. “The launch of NaviGate Prepared in all of our schools represents state-of-the-art proactive technology that fits deeply into our district’s safety plan.”

Michele Gay, mother of 7-year-old Sandy Hook victim, Josephine, past teacher, and co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools, A Sandy Hook Initiative was instrumental in bringing NaviGate Prepared and Newtown Schools together. Gay travels the nation speaking to groups and organizations, offering resources and recommendations on processes, protocols, technologies and more to help schools better prepare and respond in the event of an emergency.

The components of NaviGate Prepared address a variety of school safety needs including safety plan creation, organization and dissemination of safety documents and providing access to interactive floor plans and site plans to local first responders. Apps within the program put emergency procedures in the hands of teachers and staff for immediate access to step-by-step directions and enable them to account for students, by name, during drills and emergencies.

“NaviGate Prepared brings great value at a minimal cost and school officials throughout the nation are quickly recognizing the benefits it delivers to the protection of our most valuable assets – our kids,” said Thom Jones, director of sales for NaviGate Prepared with 15 years’ experience as a school principal. “We are humbled to be such an important part of the Newtown Public School District’s safety regimen. As we continue to improve and advance our solutions, the lessons learned at Newtown will play a pivotal role in the ongoing development of NaviGate Prepared.”

About NaviGate Prepared®
NaviGate Prepared® is a proven school safety emergency response system designed to assist and prepare school officials and first responders for emergency situations. The secure, cloud-based platform offers 911 dispatch centers and emergency personnel real-time Internet access of a school’s facility and safety information before, during and after a crisis. NaviGate Prepared is SAFETY Act Designated as an anti-terrorism-level technology by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and has been awarded the Campus Safety BEST Award in 2015 and 2016. For more information, visit or call 866-861-7400. 


Editor’s Notebook: Michele Gay’s visit to Annapolis a success

Learn more: Capital Gazette

Schools across the nation have spent the summer preparing for a safe school year.  Among those preparations, many schools are examining and introducing new protocols such as those designed to protect students and staff in an active assailant (intruder or attacker) scenario.

Recently, a mother reached out for perspective following the introduction of active assailant training at her daughter’s middle school. This mother (we’ll call her Susie) is well-educated, informed on community and school issues, and lives in an excellent school district. She received an email from her child’s school about the new program and learned that school staff had already been trained and were prepared to introduce the program to students the next week. Although surprised at the quick turnaround, Susie recognized the threat of an active assailant at school as a rare one, but like most parents, she could not help but be concerned about the possibility.

When Susie’s daughter came home from school after the training, Susie asked her how it went. “Well, basically Mom, it’s every man for himself,” replied the young girl.

Determined to remain calm and objective, Susie took a deep breath and gently pressed for more information.  “How did my daughter walk away with that idea?” she wondered.  Susie knew one thing for sure: this was not what the school staff had intended.

We encouraged Susie to share this experience with the school to help staff better develop and deliver safety protocols, instruction, and training.

Throughout the process, Susie shared some key takeaways with us:

  • Parent Education and Preparation: Susie first learned, via email, about the upcoming training only one week before introduction. Parent meetings, forums for discussion, and plenty of notice allow for questions, alleviate fears, and build community around new programs.
  • Parent Support: The school’s initial email provided parents with some conversation starters to facilitate discussion at home. Susie found this helpful in preparing her daughter ahead of the training. Though afterward, Susie didn’t receive any follow up about how it went or how she could support this new learning at home. Follow-up conversation guides can help parents support student preparedness and monitor their child’s adjustment to new protocols.
  • Opportunities for Discussion and Feedback: Susie’s daughter said the training made her feel better about getting to safety in an emergency; but, her daughter had lots of questions following the training. Inviting student (and parent) questions and observations following instruction and/or training is essential to any school-based programming.
  • Student Support:  Susie learned that teachers introduced the new program along with the school guidance counselor. This let Susie know that the school was attending to the social-emotional needs of students through the process.  Guidance and monitoring from school-based mental health providers (i.e. guidance counselors, psychologists, and social workers) can help identify specific student and staff needs for such instruction and training.

We encourage schools to learn from experiences like these, keep parents and students actively involved, and continually examine programs and practices in order to move forward together for safer schools.

Check out these related resources for educators and parents:

The Lockdown Drill, Who Let the Dog In? and Police In Our School, children’s books by Deputy Becky Coyle

Safe and Sound Tools for Safety Education:
Developmental Levels of Safety Awareness
Hierarchy of Education and Training Activities
Stay Safe Choices

Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Assailant Drills from NASP and NASRO


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

Tucson, AZ., August 11, 2016.   Safe and Sound Schools, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering communities to learn how they can join hands, hearts, and minds to make schools safer, renewed its partnership for a 3rd year with Security100Summits K-12. Michele Gay, Co-Founder/Executive Director has been an advisory board member of the Summit for 3 years and will present this year on Reunification.  The Summit takes place November 30th – December 2nd in Tucson, Arizona.
In particular, Michele will share her personal experiences and professional perspective on reunifying a school community in the aftermath of crisis.  As an educator and Sandy Hook parent, Michele shares lessons learned and examines current reunification practices, models and resources to better prepare attendees for reunification planning and implementation in their school communities.
Michele shared, “Reunification is a critically important, often overlooked part of school emergency planning and practice.  Reuniting students and families in a safe and controlled manner in the aftermath of crisis is imperative to the physical and psychological safety of each member of the school community.”
Security100Summits K12, in its 3rd year, offers unparalleled collaborative opportunities over 2 ½ days of engagement between senior level, pre-qualified hosted buyers  responsible for their school’s safety and security, together with providers of the critical solutions these school districts need. Applications to attend are simple to obtain and are necessary to be considered for hosting.  Inquiries on attending as a hosted buyer or for sponsorship opportunities should submit their interest here .
About Security100Summits K-12©
Security100Summits K-12© is a hosted buyer summit focused on creating an environment specific to enriching the dialogue of the current challenges K-12 executives face in securing school environments. We do this in two ways. By identifying the security needs of K-12 facilities through one-on-one interviews and finding the solution providers to meet the specific needs. We bring professionals together to “Connect and Collaborate”.
The Summit attracts high level and high volume buyers who have specific projects and needs and are looking for solutions in the most efficient forum. Meetings are controlled by buyers and sellers and embrace value in face-to-face engagement.  The Summit offers Boardroom presentations, One-2-One meetings, VIP Think Tank, Networking, Relevant Content, Peer-to-Peer tabletop discussions all in the backdrop of an intimate business resort setting. 
About Safe and Sound Schools:  A Sandy Hook Initiative
Founded by parents, educators, and community members after the tragedy on December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, Safe and Sound is making a difference in empowering communities to improve school safety and security through discussion, collaboration, planning and sharing of information, tools, and resources.  They unite the national school community through a purely nonpartisan, grassroots approach to problem solving and provide school communities a platform for building local and national partnerships between parents, educators, students, first responders, mental health professionals, and community members to maintain safe and secure schools.  More information on the free resources can be found by visiting:

Sandy Hook parent comes to Annapolis to speak about school safety

Learn more: Capital Gazette

Conference focuses on school safety

Learn more: NBC, WBAL-TV, Baltimore