The Shriver Report – Safe and Sound: How Two Moms from Sandy Hook Are Making a Difference

Special Edition

Safe and Sound: How Two Moms from Sandy Hook Are Making a Difference

Schwartz_D_Pic of Two Moms

There could not be a more cruel moment in life. That day you send your first grade child off to elementary school. That split second you find out that your child was killed in their classroom. Your life is now divided – the days before this cruel moment and all the days that will follow.

After months of trying to absorb that cruelty, you decide you want to do something about what happened. You want to protect your surviving children and all children in schools. You want to honor your innocent child who went off to first grade hoping for a day of friends, new learnings and instead was killed. But the safety of children in school cannot wait for politics. You want your children, all of our children, safe in school now.

So you find a way that can unite people and communities across the country in order to take charge of the safety of our children and teachers, without politics or finger pointing.

Emilie Parker

Emilie Parker

And that is exactly what Michele Gay and Alissa Parker did after the death of their children in the Sandy Hook massacre that occurred one year ago on Dec. 14th. They became friends after the death of Michele’s seven-year-old daughter, Joey, and Alissa’s six-year-old daughter, Emilie, and formed Safe and Sound: A Sandy Hook Initiative.

Safe and Sound is not about gun control. It’s about keeping children and educators safe in schools. Michele and Alissa used the common sense innate to mothers and created a foundation focused on non-polarizing steps so something can actually get accomplished

Safe and Sound is geared to providing the resources to get things done now and considering how many school tragedies have occurred, it would seem like a no-brainer. While everything else is stalled in Washington, they aren’t choosing methods that are inherently subject to arguments. Their bottom line is ‘What’s stopping you from doing this to protect our children?’

Michele Gay and Alissa Parker are working with law enforcement officials, security experts, parents and community members to take steps to secure schools. So if someone wants to harm innocent children, what are they proposing?

To begin with, they want each parent to be a part of the solution, not to be passive and


Joey Gay

think their responsibility for school safety ends when their child is dropped off. Parents need to get involved. We are all so concerned with the safety of our children and yet parents assume that once their child is in school, their worries end. Not any longer.

Schools and parents need to assess all security and safety measures and plans. For example, do classroom doors lock? Is the front door locked? Is access controlled? This is just the beginning of the evaluation. And of course, all of their plans need to be customized depending on the layout of a school.

They have put together, with the help of experts, a guide template that can be customized for schools and parents to operate by, a framework to begin the task. They have created a platform of information, including three free tool kits to provide security awareness tools, tips and resources. These address everything from how to get started to the excuses and the denial so commonly heard. They have encountered many parents who say ‘it can’t happen here.’

They have been contacted by moms who are intimidated by the system and who say they are ‘just a mom.’  They want to empower these women.  And when parents, educators, staff and community members contact them now with the question ‘What can we do?’, Michele and Alissa are prepared to provide answers.

Whether their ideas should become law across the country is something that needs to be considered in the future. And in Connecticut, where the Newtown massacre took place, laws have already been passed regarding school safety.

The unbearable pain Michele and Alissa have experienced over the past year cannot be ameliorated. But they have chosen to do something to protect children, including future generations, who innocently leave for school every morning. I don’t know how many of us would have the courage or strength to do what these two mothers have done.

But they need help. They need parents to ask their children’s school what is in place to protect the children and how can they work with the school to achieve goals. Safe and Sound needs the assistance of experts and the support of everyone who wants to prevent another massacre like Sandy Hook. Never again should a parent experience that cruel moment in a school in this country because their child was killed in school.


Deborah Schwartz is a Reporter for The Shriver Report.
Deborah Schwartz graduated from Tufts University. She obtained her Masters in History at Columbia University where she wrote her graduate thesis on “Feminism in Eighteenth Century England.” She received her J.D. from Boston University School of Law and worked for 18 years as a healthcare attorney. In 2013 she published her debut novel "Woman on Top". Deborah is the mother of two grown children.
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