CHARTING PROGRESS THROUGH COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS AND INITIATIVES

Originally published by Michele Gay on LinkedIn:

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Hello Safe and Sound community,

It’s hard to believe we’re already more than halfway through the month of February. Following an action-packed 2023,  recapped in our first-ever Annual Report, 2024 is off to a very fast, very meaningful start.

As we move through this month, the 14th always brings up powerful emotions and memories as we remember those lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School six years ago. Our hearts continue to be with the families, the survivors, and the community impacted by the tragedy.

Last November, I shared my Safe and Sound Birthday Reflection, as well as my wish for this year: let’s commit to learning something new, from someone new, each day to keep our schools safe and sound.

With that wish guiding us in 2024, here are a few different ways we’ve been working to make it a reality.

AASA National Conference on Education: Here for the Kids

Tomorrow, February 16th, I’ll provide the general session Keynote at The School Superintendents Association’s National Conference on Education (NCE). Focused around a parent’s perspective on school safety, I’ll share my personal story as well as lessons learned since the Sandy Hook School tragedy on December 14, 2012. This will include how, through the mission of Safe and Sound Schools, we have chosen to help students, parents, administrators, school staff, emergency responders and community members who strive to make their schools safer.

The opportunity to present at AASA’s NCE is an honor, and I want to recognize Safe Haven Defense for making this session possible.

Midwest School Safety Summit

In January, Safe and Sound Schools and Michigan State University’s Prevent 2 Protect Project held the Midwest School Safety Summit in Lansing, Michigan. Centered around our shared imperative, Prevent to Protect, the Summit featured national best practices, methods, and programs for truly comprehensive school safety.

One of the many highlights was our launch of the newly rebuilt and enhanced Averted School Violence (ASV) Database website. Since 2015, ASV has encouraged individuals involved in school safety to share averted school violence stories and lessons learned to help improve safety nationwide. Safe and Sound Schools’ Violence Prevention Program Manager, Steve McMahon, and NASRO Special Adviser, Jeff Allison, launched ASV’s latest iteration to a highly engaged group in Lansing, and we invite you to join the mission by anonymously and securely submitting an averted incident for review.

Additionally, it’s attendee testimonials like this that bring us back to our commitment to learning something new, from someone new, each day to keep our schools safe and sound:

“I just want to thank everyone who played a role in this summit. It was very powerful and we are already brainstorming and planning discussions with staff to share what we learned to help make our schools and community safer. I’d like to especially thank those who shared their very personal stories; I cannot even begin to imagine the pain they have endured and my heart just goes out to each of these courageous souls. Please let them know that their stories and mission made a lasting impression and their stories will be used as we continue to work with our staff on the importance of connecting with ALL students.” – Michelle Edwards, Midwest School Safety Summit 2024

See more event highlights here:

Tennessee Independent School Safety Summit

In response to the pressing demand for safety education and support within Tennessee’s independent schools, we partnered with Lakeway Christian Academy to host a first-of-its-kind 2-day event. This Summit featured proven methods and essential strategies vital to keeping independent school campuses safe.

“Thank you for this conference. It was one of the best two conferences I have ever been to. It was well worth the time hearing straight from the sources. Please keep me in mind for anything else like this [you have] in the future. ” – Zach Summers, Attendee

In addition to Tennessee’s own subject matter experts who shared insights on legislative updates, threat assessment best practices, and more, I had the opportunity to present with Dr. CJ Huff, Co-Founder of Bright Futures USA. Our “Road to Resilience: Recovery Perspectives from Joplin to Sandy Hook” session provided an opportunity to share our unique post-tragedy perspectives, as well as our common mission of safer schools and brighter futures in communities across the country. It also demonstrated how Bright Futures (now one of Safe and Sound Schools’ signature programs) helps to address upstream community needs as a foundational element of our mission to protect every school and every student, every day. A very exciting development that we cannot wait to share more on.

Through our partnership with the Texas School Safety Center (TXSSC) and Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT), we developed a new curriculum designed to teach students and staff their very own age- and ability-appropriate options for safety during a school-based crisis or act of violence. 

We’ve had the opportunity to complete nine full day training sessions already this year and are so proud of the work that has gone into them, as well as the engagement and outcomes we have already seen. Many thanks go out to our partners and our amazing attendees from across disciplines of school safety and student wellness!

In January, we wrapped our latest season of “The Sound Off on School Safety” podcast, where we delved into honest, heartfelt conversations with leaders, educators, and community members who are on the front lines working to build safer schools for everyone. Through their eyes and experiences, we learned the importance of resilience, connection, and timely intervention, as their tales aren’t just stories, they’re blueprints for change. 

Our guests included:

  • Frank DeAngelis – Retired Principal, Columbine High School
  • Molly Hudgens – School Counselor, Author of “Saving Sycamore”
  • Paul Timm – Physical Safety Expert
  • Alissa Parker – Co-founder, Safe and Sound Schools
  • And many more!

Thank you to the Door Security & Safety Foundation for sponsoring Season 3 of The Sound Off on School Safety podcast. Listen to all of the episodes here

Don’t Forget: National School Resource Officers Day

In 2022, our partners at the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) declared February 15th as a day to specifically honor school-based law enforcement nationwide. Falling during the traditional academic year, as well as on the birthdate of founding NASRO member Archie Hodge, it’s a day for school systems and communities across the country to honor their school resource officers and reaffirm that school resource officers are invaluable to the communities they serve. 

Here’s how you can participate and recognize the accomplishments of your SROs:

  • Encourage your local media to cover National School Resource Officer Appreciation Day. You can find the official NASRO SRO Appreciation Day webpage here. 
  • Encourage your local representatives to “make it official” in your city or county. A simple email asking for a proclamation to your local representatives will usually suffice. You can use the NASRO proclamation as a framework. 
  • Share our social media posts with your followers — you can find our Facebook and Instagram pages here.
  • Post on social media using the hashtags #NationalSchoolResourceOfficerAppreciationDay #NationalSchoolResourceOfficerAppreciationDay2024 #SROsAreValuable
  • Let your school safety partners know!

Thank you for reading, and thank you for your efforts to keep our schools safe and sound.

Gratefully,

Michele Gay

Co-Founder and Executive Director

Safe and Sound Schools

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