Today I felt a wide range of emotions – disbelief, sadness and even outrage. It has been barely 30 days since we suffered the most horrific school shooting in our nation’s history and the loss of 20 young lives which were pure and completely innocent. Yet our headline news is dominated by stories about a bicycle rider who gamed the system and a football player wrapped up in a hoax.
Sadly, I am fearful that we don’t yet have enough commitment – from everyone in the country – to truly make a difference and do all we can to prevent another incident of targeted school violence in America. Increasing public awareness is so crucial an objective. And we have so much work on this ahead of us. So, the fifth goal we intend to achieve in 2013 is to be visible and vocal in raising public awareness on the key issues in preventing school violence in this country. As Act #19, we commit to do so in line with the following:
- Harness Social Media: This platform for raising awareness is even more important for not-for-profit programs such as ours than it is for businesses because it is free and far more effective than advertising. A strong, constant and impactful social media presence will allow us to engage directly with large numbers of potential supporters.
- Conduct Joint Campaigns: School violence prevention – as an issue – overlaps with so many others related to our families and communities that undertaking joint campaigns to raise awareness with other groups and organizations will be a key platform for us.
- Promote School Violence Prevention Ambassadors: Any awareness campaign requires visible and vocal leadership and advocacy from individuals with knowledge, authenticity and established credentials. While sometimes this voice will be our own (e.g., at a national level and for major events), it’s also essential that we nurture this advocacy at a distributed grassroots level – in communities, schools, and legislative assembly rooms around the country. This will take time – and involves tools and strategies such as training, accreditation programs, advocacy support materials, and reach-back support on key policy issues.
- Support Volunteering and Grassroots Initiatives: In addition to such local ambassadors, one of the best ways of increasing awareness of school violence prevention priorities and best practices involves capitalizing on armies of volunteers at the local level.
- Launch Sponsor-A-School Programs: Since so many facets of protecting our children (though by no means all) are inherently local issues, we see very promising opportunities to increase both awareness and impact by developing model Sponsor-A-School programs. These will (a) mobilize local businesses, civic organizations, and faith-based entities in support of this mission, (b) concentrate local resources on local schools, (c) improve the likelihood of the schools gaining state-specific funding, (d) encourage these community-and-school partnerships to customize certain risk mitigating practices to reflect local circumstances, preferences and priorities, and (e) through more meaningful local engagement, ensure school violence program sustainability even as government funding priorities wax and wane over time.
It’s time to get our heads out of the sand.