Open Letter to Senator Hatch and Senator Klobuchar on the STOP School Violence Act of 2018

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.

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

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