Friday, February 8, 2013

Shout-out to School Counselors and Speak Up Be Safe™ Facilitators!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog posts to give a big shout-out to all school counselors in recognition of this being National School Counseling Week!  To each and every school counselor we say thank you!  Thank you for your hard work every day in the schools to support students in their efforts to be successful, not only in their academic achievements but in their lives in general. 

One thing the MBF team has learned over the past three years in working so closely with hundreds of school counselors across the state of Florida is how hard each and every one of you work. You not only spend your days dealing with student testing and academic achievement, but you deal with student drama, unmet needs, stress, and even individual and family crises.  You are the go-to person in the school for all things academic and social related and you handle it with professionalism and compassion.  For this and more, we honor all Florida School Counselors today (and every day).

But the MBF team must take a moment and point out a group of very special school counselors – a group of over 650 very dedicated elementary school counselors across the state of Florida that we are so very grateful to know and work with, our Speak Up Be Safe™ (SUBS) Certified Facilitators.  These counselors decided that the safety and protection of their students was worth the extra time and energy, and in addition to their regularly scheduled duties, became trained and are implementing the SUBS program.

SUBS teaches kids in 1st – 5th grades strategies to help them identify unsafe situations and empowers them to help the adults in their lives better protect them from bullying, cyberbullying, digital abuse and all types of child abuse.  Despite the topics being uncomfortable, despite their days being filled to capacity, despite the fact they know the program will bring out disclosures and make additional work for them, these counselors choose to voluntarily implement this research-based and effective program because they know their efforts are worth it to protect their kids and prevent the potential damage of bullying and maltreatment.  Those kids, and our state, are lucky to have them!

So in honor of National School Counseling Week, here’s to all counselors, but especially to our SUBS counselors! We could not have provided SUBS to over 260,000 students so far without them – we are truly blessed to have each and every SUBS counselor on our team, and we honor them not just this week – but every week, and every day!

Friday, February 1, 2013

School Shootings: Are we asking the right questions?

Lynn Layton, Executive Director of the Monique Burr Foundation for Children (MBF), and I recently attended the Florida Association of School Administrator’s Legislative Days in Tallahassee and one thing that we heard mentioned several times was the concern of school administrators about safe schools and their hope that the Governor and Education Commissioner would prioritize some funding and support to improve school safety.  As a parent, hearing that was nice.  To know schools are concerned with the safety of my child and every other child is comforting.  I hope it is an issue that legislators and schools continue to focus on.

And then again yesterday there was another school shooting.  A student at an Atlanta middle school shot and injured another student.  IN 21 YEARS, from 1992 to 2013 there have now been 10 school shootings in elementary, middle and high schools in the United States that have tragically injured or killed 155 adults and students (and more before that, I’m sure).

In response to this there is talk of arming teachers or administrators in school, or of providing armed guards for every school in our country.  And of course we are seeing congressional hearings to discuss newer, stricter gun control laws as well.  I’m not an expert in gun control, but I do wonder if we are asking the right questions or considering the right answers.  Isn’t it time we as a society think in terms of prevention and be proactive rather than reactive?  Instead of providing armed guards to schools, why don’t we provide more counselors and social workers to schools?  Why don’t we provide violence prevention programs to schools?  Why don’t we work diligently to determine why shootings occur in the first place and seek to effect change at that level?  That is a strategy that actually makes sense! 

But I believe we already know why most of these tragedies occur.  In a 2000 Chicago Sun Times exclusive report, after interviewing 41 school shooters, in 37 incidents, the Secret Service found that two-thirds had been bullied and attacks were motivated by revenge*.  And there is a lot of bullying occurring these days, so I’m afraid these types of attacks may actually be on the rise.

In Florida alone – the average number of children that are reported as bullied, abused or neglected total 153 EACH DAY, and that is only the number reported – not the actual number of children who ARE bullied, abused or neglected EACH DAY.  Every one of the 155 adults and students shot on school grounds was an extremely valuable human life and we in no way want to minimize their injury or death; but if we focus on the 153 abused or bullied kids each day, if we seek to prevent their abuse and maltreatment, maybe we can prevent future shootings from occurring.

The Monique Burr Foundation for Children provides a program called Speak Up Be Safe™ (SUBS) – a national, research based bullying and child abuse prevention program – to all Florida public elementary schools at no cost to the schools.  Speak Up Be Safe educates and empowers 1st through 5th grade students with knowledge and strategies to identify and react to unsafe situations and to help the adults in their lives keep them safe.  It teaches kids empathy and bystander intervention, two strategies shown to be effective in bullying prevention.

Please visit our website at to learn more about the program and ask your school if they are providing SUBS to their students.  If not, please encourage them to begin offering SUBS now.  As one parent, with just this one action, you can make a big difference in the lives of so many children!  And maybe, in the future, we can prevent more tragic events from happening to innocent victims as a consequence of abuse and bullying.

All kids deserve to be safe!  Let’s make 2013 the year we all work together – parents, schools and organizations – to protect all children!