A little over one month after the terrible tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary School, the outpouring of support and caring can barely be managed by the hundreds of volunteers who have come together to assist the community of Newtown. People from across the country and around the globe have united in an effort to prevent something like this from ever happening again. According to state and national experts, the themes for these solutions can be found in the very actions that residents of Newtown, Connecticut and people across America are taking in response to the event. As people connect with one another, communicate concerns and develop solutions in ways that balance prevention and response, we are strengthening the bond that will help us keep our children safe. Protective factors include:
• Building strong connections between people in schools, families and communities.
• Encouraging citizens to communicate with public safety officials and each other about the threats they perceive in their schools and communities.
• De-stigmatizing mental health service needs and simplifying access to them at appropriate levels to all members in all of our communities; resolving legal barriers that make it difficult for educators and mental health practitioners to be able to talk with one another about the social and emotional needs of their students.
• Supporting school leaders in implementing frameworks that create positive climate and culture in their schools, thereby reducing or eliminating incidences of violence and bullying, and supporting the learning needs of each student. (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports is one such model.)
• Rethinking school design with school safety in mind. (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design Support articulates critical building design elements.)
• Expecting the best and preparing for the worst by holding school safety drills so that children and adults of all ages know what to do immediately in the event of a threat.
The Connecticut Council for Education Reform applauds state and national efforts, including Governor Dannel P. Malloy's recent formation of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, to make our nation and our schools safer for our children. Our hearts are with the family and community members of Newtown who recently formed Sandy Hook Promise, with a commitment to using everything learned from this event to prevent it from ever happening again.