In Honor of Josephine Gay, Safe and Sound Schools

MicheleGay

Michele Gay

Co-Founder, Safe and Sound Schools

Newtown, CT

December 11, 2014

 

Save the Children’s Get Ready Get Safe initiative is designed to help US communities prepare to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us in times of crisis – our children. We keep kids safe, securing the future we share. We’re pleased to work with Michele Gay and Safe and Sound Schools to help ensure that children can be safe in all types of emergency situations.

Almost two years have passed now since the morning I packed up my three daughters and sent them off for another day of school in Newtown, Connecticut. With my husband returning from a week of work in Massachusetts and our youngest daughter Josephine’s 7th birthday party set for Saturday, our family was excited for the weekend. But only two daughters were returned to me at the end of that day, December 14, 2012. Joey was killed in her first grade classroom only moments after I dropped her off at the front door and into the loving arms of one of her teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Josephine Gay

Josephine Gay was a victim of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012

Since the long, desperate hours we spent that day, waiting to receive the words that would forever change our lives, we’ve learned that she has never really left us. As a family of deep faith—and with the support of family, friends, and others near and far—we have discovered in many ways, how Josephine lives on in this world.

She has called us—all of us—to do better by our children. We cannot take back the choices of the man who attacked and killed Joey, and 25 of her beloved friends and teachers at school that day. Nor can we take back the mistakes and blatant inactions of so many that allowed his profound mental illness to fester to the point of such unprecedented tragedy. But we can, at least, do better, by our surviving children and our school communities.

To do better, I work in my Josephine’s name, for safer schools in America. I founded Safe and Sound with Alissa Parker, in honor of Joey and her dear friend Emilie Parker, also killed on December 14, 2012. Our nonprofit foundation is dedicated to educating and empowering school communities, parents, students, teachers, administrators, emergency responders, and mental health professionals to make our schools safer—together.

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Josephine Gay at age 2

Safe and Sound is a hub of free school safety resources designed to help guide communities across the country as they too look to “do better” for the precious people who come to grow, learn, and teach in school every day. With a panel of national school safety professionals, we develop and collect best practice materials and resources. We travel the country visiting, speaking, and teaching in school communities and for professional organizations about school safety and looking for partners in advocacy, education, and community support, partners like Save the Children.

In this work, we’ve learned a great deal. From Save the Children, we learned that more than 21 states lack basic safety standards for schools and child care. From the U.S. Department of Justice, we learned that the national average response time to an emergency is about six minutes. Most tragedies like ours are over before help even arrives. And from the National Fire Academy, we learned that our nation has not seen a single fire related death in a K-12 school in over 56 years, since the inception of fire safety education and protocols. Sadly, we cannot say the same for other school safety issues like suicide, bullying, severe weather, natural disaster, physical assault, or armed attack in our schools.

In all that we’ve learned, perhaps nothing is more important than this fact: We—parents, educators, leaders and community members—are not powerless in keeping our children safe in school.

Today (December 11), on Joey’s birthday, we invite you to join us, not only in her memory but also in honor of the precious children in your life.

Visit us at www.safeandsoundschools.org, where you will find a wealth of information and experience to help you work for safer schools in your community. Check out our free, printable toolkits at http://www.safeandsoundschools.org/straight-a-security/. Support our mission for safer schools. It’s time to get to work together for safer schools today.

Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy: Coming Together to Protect Children

Save the Children has worked to ensure the safety and well-being of children around the world for nearly 100 years. We work with children all over the world who have been dramatically affected by war, crisis and violence. We believe that every child has the right to a safe and vibrant childhood. We applaud President Obama’s efforts to curb gun violence in the United States, and we join him and others in advocating for tighter laws, particularly around the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

 

We recognize that this is a complex issue requiring a comprehensive approach. We are working with the Administration and Congress to increase access to mental health services and begin a national conversation about the glorification of violence in our culture. It is urgent we come together as a nation to prevent more tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

Immediately following the tragedy, Save the Children deployed staff members to help provide emotional support to children in Sandy Hook and the greater Newtown community. Within hours, we opened a Child Friendly Space, giving kids a safe place to play and express themselves while their parents and family members sought counseling and support. We also issued tips to help children cope with a crisis. Save the Children staff volunteers have served more than 300 children since arriving in Newtown, providing a cheerful place where kids can just be kids. But we can and will do more.

 

We call on the President and Congress to establish a National Commission on Children, which could include creating a national policy on children, setting goals for reducing violence towards children and for improving their safety, and monitoring progress. Save the Children is an organization that is dedicated to making the world a better place for children; that is our identity, our mission and we will not stand by and watch this happen again.

 

Click here to learn more about work to help the Newtown children, families and community affected by the recent tragedy and how we plan to ensure measures are taken to better protect our nation’s children: http://www.savethechildren.org/stand

Sandy Hook Tragedy: Volunteering for Save the Children in Newtown


Lacey-head-shotKristen Lacey, Senior Director, Marketing and Brand Management

Newtown, Connecticut

Decmeber 20, 2012


Working at Save the Children, I thought one day I’d help
earthquake survivors or war refugees in some remote land. I never thought I’d
be part of our relief efforts in my neighboring community.

When Save the Children was called on to help families in
Newtown, there was no hesitation. Responding to requests by community leaders
and the American Red Cross, we sent teams to do what we’ve done around the
world for decades – help children in crisis. 

Kristen and puppy

Kristen cuddles with a fellow volunteer in Newtown. They've both been helping kids cope with the tragedy in their own way.

I’m part of a team that works in our Child Friendly Space in
a large art classroom next to the counseling services in Reed Intermediate
School. It’s a place where kids can be kids again; comforted by trained adults
who can help them open up and give them tools to cope with their feelings.  

What we've done in Newtown is some of the most important
work we've ever done.  We provided
children who were frightened, confused and in some cases not speaking, with a
safe and warm place to play, feel protected and express themselves. 

One child said to me, “I like it best right here”.

We created an
environment where the kids became content and did not want to leave…painting,
playing with play dough, making ornaments, writing on our mural and creating
bracelets brought a calm and peace to these kids, and actually created a
setting they could partially control. 
These kids stepped back into a school in a way that was constructive and
healing, the opposite of what so many experienced that dark Friday in Sandy
Hook. 

As a parent, I also value that we gave parents a reprieve to
get much needed counseling while their children were in good care. 

Save the Children is unique because we can focus 100% on
kids and their needs – that is what we do. 
In Newtown, we provided exactly what the community needed for their
precious children, the moment they needed it.

I am humbled to be part of our volunteer effort. It gives me
comfort that I can help my neighbors in need.

Parents, click to read our 

Ten Tips to Help Children Cope With A Crisis

my
neighboring community

Talking to Your Kids about Sandy Hook

We are all shocked and saddened by the tragedy of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, yesterday. Our thoughts are with the affected children and families.

 

Save the Children staff is now on site in Newtown, offering assistance if needed. We have set up a Child Friendly Space, where children who are receiving community-assisted crisis counseling also have a safe area to help them deal with the uncertainty and stress they are experiencing. While their parents get grief counseling, our Child Friendly space is also working to identify kids who need some extra care.

 

For parents across the country struggling to talk to their children about this tragedy, we have posted our Top Ten Tips to Help Children Cope with a Crisis at www.savethechildren.org/cope. Many parents, teachers, grandparents and caregivers are concerned about how dramatic images of the tragic crisis can affect the emotional well-being of their children. We hope that these tips can help you have those important