Thursday, December 27, 2012

Advocating for School Safety

When tragedy like the Sandy Hook school shooting strikes, PTA members want to know how to help, then they start looking for solutions. It’s the core of what we do. Here is a collection of resources for members and local PTA leaders.


PTA position on gun violence: National PTA believes school safety is a critical priority and that every attempt must be made to reduce violence, especially incidents involving use of firearms. PTA advocates for gun-free schools and works to ensure schools have effective emergency plans. PTA also strongly supports increased access to mental health treatment.

Please read on for resources and details on PTA positions taken

Steps 1, 2, 3 for advocacy – Compiled by National PTA

National PTA has a rich history of advocating on behalf of our nation’s children – particularly as it relates to their safety and well-being. In the wake of a tragedy like the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, PTA members intuitively look for solutions to better protect children. It is advocacy and it is at the core of PTA’s mission.

PTA advocacy means supporting and speaking up for children—in schools, in communities, and before government bodies and other organizations that make decisions affecting children. This document serves as a guide for ways in which PTA members can advocate effectively as our communities, states and country look for solutions to prevent future tragedies.

Step 1: Local emergency preparedness

The first step in getting involved locally is making sure you are informed about existing plans, procedures, and needs. Does your school have an emergency preparedness plan? Is it adequate? Are there potential funding challenges that have prevented schools from being fully prepared for emergencies?

Once you know how prepared your school is – and what potential challenges there are – you are then better able to advocate effectively. Writing an editorial for the local newspaper, holding a petition drive, speaking before a school board meeting, or sending a letter to elected officials can be effective ways to voice your opinion and gain support from decision makers for violence prevention programs in your community. You can influence decisions that affect the safety and well-being of our children by working with other concerned parents, teachers, and community members.

Q: Is our school adequately prepared for an emergency? Who do I speak to?

A: Many schools have violence prevention plans and crisis management teams in place. These plans include descriptions of school safety policies, detection of early warning signs in children, intervention strategies, emergency response plans, and post-crisis procedures. The most effective violence prevention and response plans are developed in cooperation with school and health officials, parents, and community members.

Ask your school’s principal about the emergency preparedness plan in place to handle an emergency or crisis situations. Be aware that some states are not required to make public the full plan for safety reasons. In these cases, you should still be able to access basic framework and guidelines.

Q: What should I look for in my school’s emergency preparedness plan?

A: Comprehensive emergency preparedness plans should include the designation of a parent/child reunification location, use of school public address/automatic call systems in the event of an emergency, lock-down procedures, etc. Parents should inquire as to admittance procedures during school hours, number of trainings and drills per school year, and collaboration with local law enforcement.

Q: How can I help my school better prepare for emergencies and protect students?
A: The first step is to be informed about existing plans and procedures. Effective emergency preparedness plans are routinely revisited to identify areas of improvement. Find ways to collaborate effectively with school staff and fellow parents and community members to best prepare for emergency situations. Encourage your child’s school to publish the emergency plan in parent/student handbooks, on the school website, and to distribute via backpack mail mail/email. The U.S. Department of Education provides many resources to help schools create and update School Emergency Management Plans, including:

Step 2: Be strategic in your advocacy

Q: As a PTA leader, I am being inundated with requests for meetings, statements, letter sign-ons, rallies, bill endorsements, etc. What is our role?

A: As a PTA leader you play a valuable role - one in which the community will look to in the aftermath of a tragedy like the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Being proactive and involved in advocacy efforts is well within your role. However, it is important that any involvement is aligned with PTA’s mission and policy positions. Becoming familiar with the accompanying documents on PTA’s positions and resolutions – as well as those in your own state PTA congress – is an important first step.

While some requests may be time-sensitive, it is also important to be strategic. You cannot be everything to everybody. As you receive requests, develop a process, including a vetting process, to ensure that your advocacy efforts are consistent, sustainable and strategic.

Q: I’m not sure we should sign-on to this letter, endorse this bill, reply to this media request, etc. Who can I contact?

A: If you feel unsure about whether you should be involved in a particular initiative or effort, know that National PTA is ready to assist and talk through any questions or concerns you may have.
 If national media outlets request comments or interviews on the school shooting or National PTA positions related to school violence and firearms, please refer them to James Martinez, Senior Manager of Media Relations with National PTA. You can reach him directly at 571-329-9352 or If you need assistance responding to local, regional or state media, National PTA can also be a resource.


Step 3: Be comfortable advocating; help is available

Q: Our state PTA wants to endorse state legislation, petition the governor, join a coalition, etc. Should we?

A: As a leading voice for parents and families, state PTA congresses should feel comfortable taking part in advocacy efforts if they align with PTA’s mission and positions. Although National PTA does not take positions on state-level legislation, staff are available to provide technical assistance should you have questions or concerns. Contacting staff at National PTA is also important as they can connect and share what other state PTAs may be doing in the same arena.

Q: Our state PTA wants to/has been asked to endorse federal legislation, contact our Members of Congress, etc. Should we?

A: Again, as a leading voice for parents and families, state PTA congresses should feel comfortable advocating policy priorities at the federal level. National PTA will communicate federal advocacy efforts through communication with state PTA leaders, PTA Takes Action newsletters, social media, and more. In an effort to organize our federal advocacy efforts in the most effective way, we ask that you contact National PTA Government Affairs staff before taking part in any federal advocacy effort unless requested by National PTA.

For more information, please contact Elizabeth Rorick, Deputy Executive Director of Government Affairs and Communications at, or visit our website at

PTA resources and positions:

School safety; gun violence; mental health care

On Friday, December 14, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, experienced a violent shooting that resulted in nearly 30 deaths. National PTA President Betsy Landers issued a statement that same day to express her sympathy for the students, families and communities affected by the horrendous tragedy. School and child safety, a crucial component of effective learning, is one of PTA’s core tenets. National PTA believes that the protection of children in all school settings is a fundamental right and has made it the utmost priority for our work and advocacy.

Following is a sampling of Frequently Asked Questions National PTA has received since the shooting summary. If you have additional questions, please contact

Q: Does National PTA have resources to assist parents, families and educators in dealing with the aftermath of this tragedy?

A: Yes, you can find PTA resources, including tips for talking to children and for improving school safety, online at Like you, our attention and assistance is focused on helping schools, families, and children coping with this traumatic event. Your help in sharing PTA resources within your state is invaluable.

Q: Does National PTA support gun control? Where does National PTA stand on federal efforts that restrict access to firearms?

A: National PTA celebrates a long history of advocacy for the safety of our nation’s children and youth and supports federal efforts to protect children and youth from gun violence. National PTA believes school safety is a critical priority and that every attempt must be made to reduce violence, especially incidents involving use of firearms. Parents, educators, community members, and government must prioritize this issue to ensure a safe learning environment for all students.

National PTA advocates for preventative measures to educate students, educators and community members on school and firearm safety, such as:
  • Inclusion of safety education in public school curricula and community programs;
  • Support and promotion of programs to educate parents, children, youth, and communities about the importance of firearm safety and awareness;
  • Promotion of public education campaigns to alert parents and community members to the devastating effects of firearm-related violence; and
  • Adoption of school-level and school district-level safety policies and guidelines, including the preparation of educators and pupil support personal in crisis response.
Additionally, National PTA advocates for specific provisions to restrict access to firearms. National PTA believes gun violence must decrease to make our schools and communities safer. National PTA encourages Congress to take action to enact federal laws to restrict access to firearms and improve school safety.

National PTA supports the following specific policy recommendations:
  • Mandatory license to purchase a firearm
  • Mandatory three-day waiting period and background check to purchase a firearm, regardless of retail venue
  • Prohibition on the sale of more than one handgun per month to any individual
  • Prohibition of firearm purchase and possession by those convicted of spousal abuse and child abuse
  • Mandatory increased annual license fee for any firearm retailer
  • Reenactment and expansion of federal ban on the sale and possession of military-style assault weapons.
  • Federal ban on non-sporting ammunition
  • Establish federal tax on assault weapon ammunition
  • Mandatory restrictions on Internet firearms sales, including restrictions on materials used to make/modify guns
  • Federal minimum age requirement of 21 years of age for all firearm purchases
  • Mandatory background check for any firearm retailer
  • Increased penalties for the transfer of firearms, including handguns and assault weapons, to juveniles for use in a crime
  • Licensure revocation for any retailer who knowingly sells to minors
  • Prohibition of firearm sale to any adult convicted of committing a violent crime as a juvenile
National PTA advocacy on the subject of access to firearms has included continued support for the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and a federal ban on military-style assault weapons and participation in the Million Mom March.

Q: Does National PTA support the Second Amendment?

A: National PTA supports the Second Amendment and recognizes the right to bear arms. Other rights guaranteed by the Constitution, such as free speech and private property, have certain reasonable restrictions to protect the freedom and safety of our fellow citizens and the same principle should apply to the Second Amendment. National PTA encourages Congress to adopt legislation that would help prevent future tragedies like the massacre of innocent children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School while preserving the lawful use of firearms for sport and personal protection.

Q: Does the National PTA support arming teachers and school administrators as a way to prevent school violence?

A: No. National PTA believes that in order to achieve an effective school climate, schools must be completely gun-free.

Q: Does National PTA support increased access to mental health services as one of many efforts to promote public safety?

A: National PTA has long been committed to providing improved mental health programs and services to children and youth and believes that all children and youth have the right to mental health treatment. National PTA encourages each community to make available mental health programs and services, which will meet the needs of all children and youth. National PTA strongly endorses efforts to:
  • Establish comprehensive community mental health facilities to provide preventive and treatment services to children and adults.
  • Improve teacher and administrator understanding of child growth and development to insure the provision of an emotional climate in the school conducive to good mental health.
  • Promote educational programs for parents to improve the atmosphere of the home.
  • Provide special preventive services in the school to detect impending difficulties early.
  • Urge that teacher-training institutions incorporate in their programs courses designed to give greater emphasis to children's emotional health.
  • Improve community conditions adversely affecting children's emotional health.

For more information, please contact Elizabeth Rorick, Deputy Executive Director of Government Affairs and Communications at, or visit our website at

How to support Sandy Hook

Q: How can my PTA and school community express support for the Sandy Hook PTA and Newtown community?

A: The Connecticut PTSA has created a special way for PTA leaders, school employees, and families to show their support for Sandy Hook Elementary School. We ask that you encourage local schools and communities to send paper snowflakes that will be used to decorate the new school, as well as donations to the “Connecticut PTSA Sandy Hook Fund” for ongoing community needs, via the Connecticut PTSA at the address listed below. These simple gestures will go a long way to lift the spirits of the children and show the community how much the nation cares.

The address for the Connecticut PTSA is:
Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CT 06514

The submission deadline for snowflakes is January 12, 2013; the Connecticut PTSA will accept financial contributions indefinitely.

1 comment:

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