Here at Safe and Sound Schools, we’ve been keeping a close eye on Illinois’ Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History (TEAACH) Act. The legislation will require schools there to teach Asian American history in the US, and is now heading to the governor’s desk. Read on for more details.

Illinois is poised to become the first state to require that public schools teach their students the history of Asian Americans, who have endured an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Illinois Senate passed the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History Act, known as the TEAACH Act, by a unanimous vote of 57-0 on Tuesday. The legislation, introduced in January by Illinois State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview, passed the state House in April. The House has to approve a Senate amendment before it will head to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk for his signature.

The bill would require every elementary and high school in the state to devote a unit of curriculum to the history of Asian Americans in the United States, including in Illinois and the Midwest. School districts would have until the start of the 2022-2023 school year to comply.

Read this full article in US News: ‘Illinois Tackles Anti-Asian Hate With the TEAACH Act’

As vaccine distribution accelerates reopening, schools across the country are preparing to return to full-time, in-person learning next school year. But how well do COVID safety measures in the classroom protect students, teachers, and their families from the virus? Here’s a breakdown of the research.

While relatively few schools experienced widescale outbreaks during the pandemic, the return to full-time, in-person instruction will inevitably increase students’ exposure to the coronavirus.

But the number and kind of protections schools put in place now can make a big difference in the risk that those students will bring the illness home to family members, according to a study published last month in the journal Science. Even as more adults and older students become vaccinated, the study suggests no one safety measure will be a silver bullet when it comes to preventing COVID-19.

“When we talk about the risks from in-person schooling, our tendency is to think about it in terms of risk of transmission in the classroom,” said Justin Lessler, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “But really there are a whole host of activities that go along with in-person schooling, including the transport to and from school. All of the ancillary activities can have as much impact on transmission as what’s going on in the classroom. So when we think about school, we should be thinking about the whole picture.”

Read this full article in EdWeek: ‘Masks, Tracking, Desk Shields: How Much Do School Measures Reduce Families’ COVID-19 Risk?’


Bethesda, MD—The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), and Safe and Sound Schools (SASS) have partnered to release updated guidance on conducting armed assailant drills in schools. The author organizations represent key stakeholders in school safety and crisis planning, preparedness, and implementation. This includes school-employed mental health professionals, school security and law enforcement, school administrators, other educators, and families. We have expertise and extensive first-hand experience with the most effective approaches to keeping students and staff safe on a daily basis and in crisis situations. We are committed to supporting school communities’ understanding and implementation of best practices related to this work. 

 The new version of Best Practice Considerations for Armed Assailant Drills in Schools updates and builds on the guidance released by NASP and NASRO in 2014 in response to the rapid rise in the use of intensive and highly sensorial armed assailant drills following the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In the years since, school districts across the country have continued to seek ways to improve prevention and preparedness related to the possibility of an armed intruder on campus. Many states have legally mandated armed assailant drills without providing much guidance, which has contributed to confusion about the differences between lockdown, options-based training, and full-scale simulation drills, as well as growing concern over the unintended harm caused by conducting drills inappropriately. 

 Ensuring that drills are conducted appropriately is particularly urgent as many schools across the country are returning or planning to return to in-person learning. Students and staff will be relearning safety protocols in the wake of what has been a very stressful, even traumatic, year for many individuals and school communities. It is imperative that safety drills of any kind do not unintentionally trigger or exacerbate students’ or staff sense of risk or trauma. 

 “While the statistical probability that a school will experience an active assailant event is extremely low, concern about the possibility is high because school shootings do continue and are devastating when they occur,” notes NASP Executive Director Kathleen Minke. “Our goal with this document is to provide school leaders and relevant emergency responders with the critical considerations to help schools determine to what extent they need armed assailant training and to conduct trainings that make best use of resources, maximize effectiveness, and minimize physical and psychological risks.” 

According to Mo Canady, Executive Director for the National Association of School Resource Officers, “Armed assailant drills became much more commonplace after 15 highly publicized deadly shootings in schools in the late 1990s, culminating with the massacre at Columbine High School. We had very limited guidance on how to conduct drills related to this new phenomenon, and we certainly made many mistakes as we sought to develop plans and drills intended to keep students safe. This guidance is a culmination of lessons learned as well as a collaborative effort with a strong focus not only on the physical safety of students, but their psychological safety as well.” 

The guidelines recommend that schools engage in simple discussion-based exercises before conducting drills. If and when such drills are held, schools must consider factors such as developmental maturity, psychological history, prior traumatic experiences, personality, and special needs of participants. All participants should have a chance to opt out as long as alternative preparation is provided. Additionally, participants should be notified in advance of all planned activities included in the drill. Parental permission should be required for all students. Staff should be trained to recognize common trauma signs and monitor participants during the drill, and all participants should have access to school-employed mental health professionals after the drill’s completion. The document includes a hierarchy of education and training options as well as a review of levels of developmental safety awareness. 

According to Michele Gay, Sandy Hook mother and Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools, “School communities have successfully conducted drills for fire, weather, and earthquake for decades, preparing students and staff for safety in a variety of crisis scenarios. Yet many have struggled with active assailant drills, causing avoidance, confusion, anxiety—and in some cases physical and psychological harm. With this guidance, we aim to provide a clear, practical, ‘no drama-no trauma’ approach to teaching and training students and staff for the complex threat of violence in the school setting.” 

Authors also point out that any armed assailant exercises should be considered as only one component of a comprehensive approach to school safety and crisis response. Given resource realities for many schools, training should meet the specific needs of the school and community, and more intensive, full scale drills should be conducted with careful consideration of the potential costs, risks, and benefits involved. The new guidance seeks to aid schools in coming to an informed decision regarding the best approach for them. 


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that fully vaccinated adults can resume indoor and outdoor activities (except travel) without masks or distancing. However, soon after the big news, the CDC clarified that schools should continue proper mask-wearing and covid protocols through the 2020-2021 school year. Read on for more.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday clarified coronavirus advice for American schools, recommending the continued, universal use of masks and physical distancing, after the agency’s sudden announcement that vaccinated Americans could forego masks indoors.

All schools teaching students from kindergarten through grade 12 should continue to implement proper mask-wearing through the end of the 2020-2021 school year, the C.D.C. said. The agency also kept in place its suggestions to observe physical distancing and to test for coronavirus infections. “Our school guidance to complete the school year will not change,” the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, said on “Fox News Sunday,” adding that the agency would work over the summer to update its school guidance for the fall.

“We need to update our school guidance, child care guidance, travel guidance — we have a lot of work that we need to do, ” Dr. Walensky said. “We are actively working on that now.”

Read this full article in the New York Times: ‘Schools in the U.S. should continue to use masks, C.D.C. advises.’

You’ve heard of vaccine hesitancy. Now experts are coining the term “school hesitancy” to describe students and families hesitant to return to in-person learning despite their schools being open. While there are different reasons behind school hesitancy, some see it as an educational and social crisis that will have a lasting impact through the school system for years to come.

Pauline Rojas’s high school in San Antonio is open. But like many of her classmates, she has not returned, and has little interest in doing so.

During the coronavirus pandemic, she started working 20 to 40 hours per week at Raising Cane’s, a fast-food restaurant, and has used the money to help pay her family’s internet bill, buy clothes and save for a car.

Ms. Rojas, 18, has no doubt that a year of online school, squeezed between work shifts that end at midnight, has affected her learning. Still, she has embraced her new role as a breadwinner, sharing responsibilities with her mother who works at a hardware store.

“I wanted to take the stress off my mom,” she said. “I’m no longer a kid. I’m capable of having a job, holding a job and making my own money.”

Read this full article in the New York Times: ‘Schools Are Open, but Many Families Remain Hesitant to Return’

It’s Teacher Appreciation Day, and today our educators deserve more recognition than ever before. It’s been a year since teachers were handed an unprecedented request: educate students in entirely new ways amid the backdrop of a pandemic. In this comic series, NPR illustrates one teacher’s powerful story of dedication through crisis.

Shameem Patel, a second-grade teacher in Dallas, on personal growth and loss — and the skills needed to get through the pandemic.

Read this full article in NPR: ‘Radiating Love And Positivity’ While Teaching In The Pandemic