After losing her daughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Michele Gay knew she needed to do something, and on Friday that "something" comes to life as she and other Sandy Hook families launch a website designed to empower parents.
"Joey loved every minute of being part of that community," Gay said of her daughter. "She was a celebrity. When we went to the grocery store, everyone knew her."
Josephine Grace Gay died on Dec. 14, 2012 inside Sandy Hook Elementary School. She was a first grader in Lauren Rousseau's class.
"She was amazing and continues to inspire me," Gay said.
That day will haunt her forever, but she's now transforming her anger over what happened to action.
Gay and other families from Sandy Hook, including Carly Posey whose son, also a first grade student, survived the shooting, attended the National School Safety Conference in Las Vegas in July.
Their goal – to gather information for their new website that launches Friday.
"We'll never call ourselves experts, but we sure met a lot of them, and we would like to do whatever we can to connect the two worlds," Gay said.
Many people at the National School Safety Conference in Las Vegas said school budgets are the single reason why they can't make quick changes.
Newtown parents said that's not an excuse.
"We don't want to hear what you can't do," she said. "We're already aware of the budgets."
The website is designed to empower parents. On the site you can pick a school security topic that interests you, and from there you can select from a number of action plans that offer steps on things like how to approach your school district with security ideas, and how to help raise money to help pay for security improvements.
"Even the smallest things can make a huge difference," Gay said. "We talk about something as simple in Sandy Hook as a lock on a classroom door that would have locked upon being closed and would have saved a lot of lives, if not all of them."
School safety advocate Curt Lavarello organized the National School Safety Conference over the summer. He said parent engagement with their child's school is crucial because their voices carry the most weight.
"If they don't get an answer go to the school board," he said. "Challenge them. And if the school board isn't doing anything, then replace the school board."
Greenwich school leaders and a school resource officer did a presentation at the conference. They made it a point to establish relationships with their students.
"Knowing the students, understanding who they are and where they are coming from, without that nothing works. Nothing. No security camera, no SRO. Nothing is going to work, " Dr. Lorraine Termini said.
No matter how you approach school security, Gay said it all comes down to one thing.
"We all want loving, warm, cozy environments for our kids," Gay said. "That's what we want in our schools. But it really is a team effort and we want to help folks create partnerships, develop connections and a team approach to keep our schools safe."
To check out the new Safe and Sound Schools website, created by families from Sandy Hook, click here.
Copyright 2013 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Sunday, August 31 2014 3:28 PM EDT2014-08-31 19:28:29 GMT
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