New Year’s Resolutions to Help Keep Your Family Feeling Happy and Healthy

Practice healthy habits in the New Year to make 2020 the best year yet!

The time has come again for New Year’s resolutions. We often promise to lead healthier lives in the New Year, whether by eating clean or hitting the gym – but healthy habits include so much more! This year resolve to keep your family healthy by teaching and practicing healthy habits so you and your loved ones can spend less time recovering from illness, and more time enjoying what 2020 has to offer.

The National Parent Teacher Association and Lysol® want to ensure children and families stay healthy in 2020 with a few easy New Year’s resolutions:

  • Set an exercise routine: Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of chronic disease. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week. They also recommend that children and adolescents be active for at least 60 minutes every day.[i]
  • Meal prep on Sundays: Eating healthy helps your body to stay healthy. Try meal prepping for the week on Sundays to ensure you and your family have a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats! [ii]
  • Start a cleaning and disinfecting routine: Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces at home, school and work a few times each week. Lysol Disinfecting Wipes® kill up to 99.9% of germs, including those that cause cold and flu, and are safe to use on most hard, non-porous surfaces, including electronics.
  • Give yourself time to rest: If you adopt all of these habits and you or your children still get sick, make sure to stay home from work or school to avoid passing illness to others.[iii]

Enter the Teach2Win Sweepstakes for the Chance to Win Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes for Your School!

Tell your school administrators and teachers! Lysol® is helping to make sure classrooms are stocked with product in 2020! Lysol® is selecting 250 winning teachers to receive 50 canisters of Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes for their school! To enter Teach2Win and for a chance to win, all teachers have to do is pledge to teach their students a Healthy Habits lesson in the classroom.

Visit http://www.Lysol.com/healthy-classroom to enter and for official rules. Entries must be submitted by February 27, 2020, and winners will be selected on March 1, 2020. No purchase is necessary to enter.


Author: Ferran Rousaud, Marketing Director for Lysol®

[i] https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/walking/index.htm

[ii] https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/index.html

[iii] CDC.gov. “Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu

 

Stay Healthy and Happy During the Holiday Season

Cold and flu season is once again upon us, as is the time of year when family gatherings and holiday celebrations are plentiful. This holiday season, make sure that illness doesn’t keep you and your family from enjoying your celebrations to the fullest.

The National Parent Teacher Association and Lysol want to ensure children and families have a fun, safe and healthy holiday season by providing easy and effective tips to help curb the spread of cold and flu.

  1. Get vaccinated: Getting your flu shot every year is the first and most important step to help prevent the flu. The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age or older, especially those at high risk, get their flu vaccine every season.
  2. Cover your mouth and nose: Cover your mouth or nose with a tissue, or use your elbow, when you sneeze or cough to avoid passing germs to others through the air.
  3. Clean your hands often: Wash your hands often with soap and water to get rid of germs that may be picked up throughout the day.
  4. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces: Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces at home, school and work, especially when someone is sick. Lysol Disinfecting Wipes kill up to 99.9% of germs, including those that cause cold and flu!
  5. Stay home when you’re sick: If you follow all of these habits and your children still get sick, make sure to keep them home from school (and stay home from work) to avoid passing illnesses to others!

Enter the Teach2Win Sweepstakes for the Chance to Win Lysol Disinfecting Wipes for Your School!

Tell your school administrators and teachers! To curb the spread of illness in classrooms during cold and flu season, Lysol is selecting 250 winning teachers to receive 50 canisters of Lysol Disinfecting Wipes for their school! To enter Teach2Win and for a chance to win, all teachers have to do is pledge to teach their students a Healthy Habits lesson in the classroom.

Visit Lysol.com/Healthy-Classroom to enter and for official rules. Entries must be submitted by Feb. 27, 2020, and winners will be selected March 1, 2020. No purchase is necessary to enter. Make the most out of this holiday season by practicing healthy habits!


Ferran Rousaud is the Marketing Director for Lysol. Lysol is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA.

4 Key Facts on Meningococcal Disease that Parents Should Know During the Back-to-School Season

It’s the beginning of the school year and while students are settling into the classroom, many parents are working to keep their children on top of everything they need to be successful. With so much to do, it’s no wonder it can be overwhelming. Whether it’s high school or college, parents are trying to help get their teen prepared by purchasing pens and notebooks, bookbags and accessories, and even SAT guides and index cards. And, while those things are important, parents may not be aware two particularly crucial items for their school year—two separate vaccines to help protect adolescents and teens against meningococcal disease.

Teens and adolescents are one of the more at-risk populations given their phase of life. Because they can carry these bacteria in the back of the throat, innocent and typical behavior for teens such as sharing a drink or meal, or even a kiss with their significant other, could lead to the transmission of bacteria that cause this uncommon but serious disease.3 Below are key facts to help keep your teen healthy as you navigate the school year:

  • Meningococcal disease is an uncommon, but serious disease that can attack without warning.4,5 Meningococcal disease can lead to meningitis (inflammation of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord) and serious blood infections.5
  • It’s important for parents of adolescents and teens to be aware that there are two separate vaccines to help protect against different groups of meningococcal disease: one vaccine that helps protect against groups A, C, W and Y and a separate vaccine that helps protect against group B. These two vaccines are needed to help protect against the most common groups of meningococcal disease.8
  • Meningococcal group B (MenB) is an uncommon disease that accounted for nearly 69% of all U.S. meningococcal cases in 16- to 23-year-old adolescents and young adults in 2017.10 MenB can lead to death within 24 hours11,12 and in survivors may result in life-altering, significant long-term disabilities.8,11
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adolescents receive their first dose of a MenACWY vaccine between ages 11 and 12 and a booster dose at age 16.12 The CDC also recommends that parents and their teens talk to their doctor or pharmacist about receiving a MenB vaccination series starting at age 16.10

If you’re a parent and have questions about how to help protect your adolescent or teen against meningococcal disease, including MenB, the first and best step you can take is to talk to your child’s health care provider. To learn more, please visit www.MeetMeningitis.com. This is sponsored in partnership with Pfizer.


 

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal disease. Enhanced meningococcal disease surveillance report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/downloads/NCIRD-EMS-Report-2017.pdf. Accessed June 2019.

[2] Tully J, Viner RM, Coen FG, et al. Risk and protective factors for meningococcal disease in adolescents: matched cohort study. BMJ. 2006;232(7539):445-450.

[3] Poland GA. Prevention of meningococcal disease: current use of polysaccharide and conjugate vaccines. Clin Infect Dis. 2010;50:S45-S53.

[4] Serogroup B Meningococcal (MenB) VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Website. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mening-serogroup.html. Updated August 9, 2016. Accessed June 2019.

[5] Soeters H, McNamara L, Blain A, et al. University-Based Outbreaks of Meningococcal Disease Caused by Serogroup B, United States, 2013–2018. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/25/3/18-1574_article. Accessed June 2019.

[6] Walker, TY, et al. (2019). National, Regional, State, and Selected Local Area Vaccination Coverage Among Adolescents Aged 13–17 Years — United States, 2018. Accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/pdfs/mm6833a2-H.pdf. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 68(33): 718-723.

[7] Enhanced meningococcal disease surveillance report, 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/downloads/NCIRD-EMS-Report-2017.pdf. Accessed June 2019.

[8] Meningococcal Vaccines for Preteens, Teens. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/features/meningococcal/. Accessed June 2019.

[9] Thompson MJ, Ninis N, Perera R, et al. Clinical recognition of meningococcal disease in children and adolescents. Lancet. 2006;367(9508):397-403.

[10] Borg J, Christie D, Coen PG, Pooy R, Viner RM. Outcomes of meningococcal disease in adolescence: prospective, matched-cohort study. Pediatrics. 2009;123:e502-e509.

[11] Sabatini C, Bosis S, Semino M, Senatore L, Principi N, Esposito S. Clinical presentation of meningococcal disease in childhood. J Prev Med Hyg. 2012;53:116-119.

[12] Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule for ages 18 years or younger. US Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/child/0-18yrs-child-combined-schedule.pdf. Accessed June 2019.

My Name is Meningitis

Hi, my name is meningitis and it’s nice to meet you. I think it’s time that I introduce myself, especially if you are the parent of an adolescent or teen. Let me tell you a little bit about myself and what I’ve been busy doing the past several years…

  • What am I? I am an uncommon but potentially deadly infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. There are five groups—A, B, C, W, and Y—that cause the majority of this disease and for which vaccines are available in the United States.[7] Specifically, group B or MenB accounted for 69% of all meningococcal disease cases in US adolescents and young adults in 2017.[1]
  • Who is most likely to meet me? Teens and adolescents are one of the more at-risk populations for meningococcal disease, given their phase of life and because they can carry these bacteria in the back of the throat.[2] Innocent actions such as sharing a drink, a meal, or even a kiss with their significant other are all typical behaviors for teens; however, these could lead to transmission of bacteria that cause this very serious disease.[2]
  • What else should you know? Meningococcal disease can attack without warning,[3],[4] and progress rapidly with early flu-like symptoms such as headache, nausea, and vomiting that may be difficult to distinguish from other more common infections.[2]

What have I been doing?

During the past several years—between 2011 and 2018—one of my groups, MenB has caused all outbreaks of meningococcal disease at US colleges.[5] You may have heard about me in the news from outbreaks on university campuses including Rutgers University, Oregon State University, and Princeton University.

How do you help protect your teen or adolescent against me?

Good question! There are two distinct vaccines that help protect against these different groups of meningococcal disease: one vaccine that helps protect against groups A, C, W and Y, and a second vaccine that helps protect against group B.[8] While parents may believe their teen is protected against meningococcal disease after receiving their MenACWY vaccination, it’s important that their teen also receive the separate vaccination to help protect against MenB. As of 2018 in the U.S., only 17.2% of 17-year-old adolescents had started a multi-dose MenB vaccination series.[6]

It’s critical for parents to be educated about meningococcal disease, including MenB, so you can recognize the risk factors, signs and symptoms—and even help prevent it. If you have questions about how to help protect your adolescent or teen against meningococcal disease, including MenB, the first and best step you can take is to talk to your child’s health care provider. To learn more, please visit www.MeetMeningitis.com where you can learn important information about me. This is sponsored in partnership with Pfizer.


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal disease. Enhanced meningococcal disease surveillance report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/downloads/NCIRD-EMS-Report-2017.pdf. Accessed June 2019.

[2] Tully J, Viner RM, Coen FG, et al. Risk and protective factors for meningococcal disease in adolescents: matched cohort study. BMJ. 2006;232(7539):445-450.

[3] Poland GA. Prevention of meningococcal disease: current use of polysaccharide and conjugate vaccines. Clin Infect Dis. 2010;50:S45-S53.

[4] Serogroup B Meningococcal (MenB) VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Website. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mening-serogroup.html. Updated August 9, 2016. Accessed June 2019.

[5] Soeters H, McNamara L, Blain A, et al. University-Based Outbreaks of Meningococcal Disease Caused by Serogroup B, United States, 2013–2018. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/25/3/18-1574_article. Accessed June 2019.

[6] Walker, TY, et al. (2019). National, Regional, State, and Selected Local Area Vaccination Coverage Among Adolescents Aged 13–17 Years — United States, 2018. Accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/pdfs/mm6833a2-H.pdf. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 68(33): 718-723.

[7] Enhanced meningococcal disease surveillance report, 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/downloads/NCIRD-EMS-Report-2017.pdf. Accessed June 2019.

[8] Meningococcal Vaccines for Preteens, Teens. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/features/meningococcal/. Accessed June 2019.

[9] Thompson MJ, Ninis N, Perera R, et al. Clinical recognition of meningococcal disease in children and adolescents. Lancet. 2006;367(9508):397-403.

[10] Borg J, Christie D, Coen PG, Pooy R, Viner RM. Outcomes of meningococcal disease in adolescence: prospective, matched-cohort study. Pediatrics. 2009;123:e502-e509.

[11] Sabatini C, Bosis S, Semino M, Senatore L, Principi N, Esposito S. Clinical presentation of meningococcal disease in childhood. J Prev Med Hyg. 2012;53:116-119.

[12] Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule for ages 18 years or younger. US Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/child/0-18yrs-child-combined-schedule.pdf. Accessed June 2019.

Be Internet Awesome: Host a PTA Connected Workshop This Year!

The 2018-2019 school year officially launched our PTA Connected digital initiative. We had 200 PTAs across the country commit to hosting a Be Internet Awesome workshop. Was it a success? Two of our grantees gave us the inside scoop on what it’s like to be a Be Internet Awesome grantee.

Erin Hill, a PTA leader at Pivik PTA in Plum, Pa., shared, “When our PTA was awarded the Be Internet Awesome grant from the National PTA and Google, our principal had told us the school district had held something similar a few years previous and only a few people showed up. The bar was set! We were going to get more than that this time…I hoped.”

Their principal’s main concern was that younger kids wouldn’t find this program useful, but as Erin points out, “kids using technology, getting on the internet, and even using social media are getting younger and younger. Our school… is K-4, and our kids are unfortunately at an age where they’re being exposed to some unpleasant things on the internet while their parents—me included—may think they have a few years before talks of responsible usage need to happen. When I saw this opportunity, I knew we had to apply.”

Each grantee received $1,000 to put on their event. What’s the best way to spend that grant money? Take a tip from Erin: “During the planning we decided to put most of the award money towards the food and giveaways. We figured a nicely-catered event with the opportunity for prizes would draw in more people.”

We understand PTA leaders are busy! Erin had some great guidelines for efficient planning and set up, sharing, “We used our cafeteria, which has a large screen where we projected the presentation. We decorated five tables with balloons in the breakout session colors (that corresponded with colored dots on attendees’ name tags), pens, markers, notepads and a large poster board. We allowed attendees to eat first, then after about 45 minutes of arrivals and eating, we had people go to their breakout session table. I had organized attendees into their groups prior to the event.”

Another pro tip from Erin? Get the right—and the right amount—of volunteers. Erin shared, “At our event, there were eight volunteers. We had three people at the check in table, passing out name tags and materials. We had three people handling the catering and food set up. Five of us, including some who helped in the previously-mentioned capacities, ran the breakout sessions. We had a parent volunteer deliver most of the presentation that National PTA and Google provided with the grant materials. We also had our district’s director of information technology present. He was able to provide some nice examples and tips because, one, he knows the technology being used by the kids, and, two, he has young children.”

Promoting your event is key! People need to know about the event and be excited about it. Dana Hansley of Dodge Elementary PTA in East Amherst, N.Y. noted that, “a key to promoting our event beyond the usual PTA route of emails and newsletters was an outreach to all of the teachers in the building with an explanation of the event and a simple graphic with important info like the event date, time and place. The majority of teachers in the building pushed out the graphic provided through their SeeSaw, Class Dojo and Remind accounts to parents. This additional layer of teacher support greatly impacted turnout and added weight to the subject.”

You might be wondering why PTAs are so excited about these digital workshops. Dana put it perfectly, saying, “hosting a Be Internet Awesome tech evening allowed parents an opportunity to talk through what it’s like to raise children in a digitally-connected world. This event empowered parents as they realized they were not alone in their struggles and concerns. They walked away more confident to set healthy boundaries in their households, armed with solid information they gleaned from breakout sessions and from one another.”

The event at Dodge Elementary was in high demand. “Many families who were unable to attend expressed great regret at missing the event, and inquired as to additional events,” stated Dana. “They needn’t worry, as our school principal asked us to do a Be Internet Awesome event twice next school year.”

Applications are now open for grants to host a PTA Connected Be Internet Awesome Family Workshop. Apply today at PTA.org/Grants! Learn more about the PTA Connected Be Internet Awesome Family Workshops at PTA.org/BeInternetAwesome.


About the Authors:

Erin Hill, of Pittsburgh, PA, is chair of multiple PTA committees and was PTA President of Pivik PTA during the 2018-19 school year. She has two children, a fourth grader and kindergartner. Without the internet, she wouldn’t know how to do common core math, what to make for dinner, how to dress, what was happening at school or in the community, or how to get anywhere. The internet, she feels, is such a wonderful tool and opens so many informational doors for anything you could possibly want to know.

Dana Hensley is a PTA Co-President at Dodge Elementary School. She lives with her husband and four children in East Amherst, NY and spends her free time coaching her daughter’s soccer teams. She is a strong proponent of screen time limits for both children and adults and she spends too much time on Twitter. 

Lifetouch Memory Mission 2019: A Transformative Experience

 

By Ivelisse “Ive” Castro, National PTA NSR (National Service Representative)

What an honor and a privilege it was to represent the National PTA staff on the 2019 Lifetouch Memory Mission. I was thrilled to share this experience with Esther Parker (National PTA Elections Committee), Rose Acerra (New Jersey PTA President) and Hoang Bui (Secretary/Treasurer of the Iowa PTA.)

This year Lifetouch focused on building hope in the community of Juncos, Puerto Rico by taking a team composed of Lifetouch employees and Shutterfly employees, school administrators and members of national education groups such as ASAA, NAESP, NASSP, NSBA, National PTA and others to serve in rebuilding the Colegio Bautista of Juncos, a K-8 school that’s part of the First Baptist Church of Juncos.

Juncos is south-southwest of the National Park of El Yunque, Puerto Rico’s tropical rainforest. The loss of basic utilities such as power and water only compounded the impact Maria had across the island of Puerto Rico. Among other devastating losses, the damage to schools in the area was severe.

This one-week mission took us first to Atlanta. I was intrigued. I live in Miami, Fla., so I wondered: Why go north to then go south? Why spent two days out of seven available days in Atlanta? Why not travel directly to Puerto Rico to have more time serving there? In Atlanta, I found the answer: Because when you want 42 people to work together as a team, to not be just helpers but servants, to have an enriching, transformative and memorable experience, you need to start by building your team and setting the foundation for success.

On Tuesday evening we traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico. On Wednesday, we arrived in Juncos and got divided into teams to work on different projects.

After construction on Saturday, we visited the homes of different families in the area to learn more about them. While driving to one of these homes, a student who came with us to translate for the group said something that summed up the spirit of the community.  He said, “I don’t like people asking about what happened to us before, during and after Hurricane Maria. That’s the past. We managed. We survived. We became stronger on our own as a result of it.”

On Sunday, we participated in the church’s service where they warmly thanked us for all we “gave” them—in fact, they gave us more than they can ever imagine. That day, Lifetouch distributed printed pictures of the students taken previously that same week.

This year, Lifetouch accommodated Puerto Rico PTA students from our Missionary Christian Academy PTA, and Kabod Christian Academy PTA. Our students and state leaders made us proud. If you want to get a sense of our time in Puerto Rico, I recommend that you watch these three Facebook Live videos featuring National PTA, the Puerto Rico PTA and their local units:

1) The National PTA team session

2) MCA & Julia Justiniano session

3) Kabod and Vivian Ruiz session

I’m so glad National PTA has this relationship with Lifetouch because I’m not aware of any other opportunity that brings the national education community together to learn and serve other education communities that teach us a lot about them and about ourselves.

I hope we will all continue to support the Lifetouch Memory Mission project by donating (funds will go to the 2020 mission) and by applying to join future missions—the 2020 Lifetouch Memory Mission will be in the Dominican Republic. I can assure you: you’ll gain more than what you’ll give.

This experience will live in me forever! Thank you, Lifetouch and my Memory Mission family. Thank you, National PTA, for the honor of being a representative of the National PTA family. Thank you to my Puerto Rican friends and Puerto Rico PTA family.

The Best Recipe for Creating Healthy Schools

Are you hungry…for school health? Well, we have a recipe that’s sure to satiate you.

For best results, where all students at your school have equal access to education and opportunities for practicing healthy behaviors, combine two or more of the following ingredients. This recipe is ideal for those who understand that healthy students are better prepared to learn.

  • 1 helping of school grant funds: Apply for a parent-led school grant for $1,000 to help implement nutrition or physical activity programs at your school. Have you always wanted to build a school garden or start a cooking club? Or maybe you want to create an active indoor recess kit or institute regular family fitness nights? Here’s your chance to improve your school’s learning environment through health and wellness. Apply by April 5, 2019.
  • A couple pinches of Every Kid Healthy Week celebrations: Every Kid Healthy Week (April 22-26, 2019) is an annual observance that celebrates school health and wellness achievements. Start planning your school’s Every Kid Healthy Week events with our helpful resources and recommendations. From field days to health fairs to fun runs, thousands of schools across the country plan events that get the whole community involved, so join the healthy fun!
  • 1 whole school health team: One of the strongest ways to implement lasting school health programs is by joining or creating a school health team. Parent voices matter when it comes to creating a plan and leading projects that impact students’ bodies and minds for the better, so find out how to get started.
  • Several dashes of change: Whether it’s your school’s food culture or fundraising techniques, some things may need to change. Determine your goals for feasible school health improvements that you’d like to see, and then take action. There’s no time like the present to make sure kids are growing healthy and thriving.

The best recipes are made with passion, so channel yours into getting every kid healthy and ready to learn.


Action for Healthy Kids mobilizes school professionals, families, and communities to come together to take actions that lead to building healthier school environments where kids thrive.  We give kids the keys to health and academic success by improving physical activity opportunities and nutrition education throughout the school.

David’s Law: A Texas PTA Story

Texas PTA first became involved in the work to reduce bullying in 2011, when we worked with legislators to pass a law strengthening guidelines for dealing with bullying in the schools. At that time, cell phones were still scarce in the schools, and administrators were reluctant to support laws that required schools to confront cyberbullying, but we saw where things were heading. We knew that while this legislation was a necessary first step, the issue was evolving, and we needed to stay on top of it. So, Texas PTA continued to monitor the prevalence of cyberbullying among students and developed programs to educate parents about the emerging phenomena and how to deal with it at home.

Then, in 2016, with suicide on the rise among victims of cyberbullying, Texas PTA began to plan a more focused bill. “David’s Law” honors the memory of David Molak, a 16-year-old student from San Antonio who committed suicide in January 2016 following relentless online harassment. David’s family was determined to do everything they could to eliminate cyberbullying. They formed David’s Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending cyber-assisted bullying by educating communities about the harmful effects of cyber abuse, providing support for victims, promoting kindness, and supporting legislation that prohibits cyberbullying of minors.

The Molaks led the charge to pass legislation strengthening the law passed in 2011, so that school leaders would have clarity on their responsibility in investigating allegations, informing both law enforcement and parents of suspected cyberbullying, and, when appropriate, disciplining the cyberbully. From nearly the beginning, Texas PTA joined forces with the Molaks—working side-by-side leading up to the legislative session to ensure passage of a new bill. This was no easy task. While it was clear that cyberbullying had become an epidemic, there was still opposition to the bill.

To gain the support necessary for the bill to pass, we spent many hours in meetings with legislators and advocacy groups and made a few changes to the bill’s language on their recommendations. Leadership within Texas PTA testified multiple times at committee hearings, prepared and distributed background information, participated in press conferences, and wrote op-eds and letters to legislators. Grassroot members participated in multiple action alerts to urge support for David’s Law. At Texas PTA’s Rally Day in February 2017, PTA members advocated for David’s Law in meetings and even on the steps of the state capitol.

The new law made many changes to how schools could and should operate:

  • Schools in Texas now have the authority to address cyberbullying that occurs off-campus;
  • They must notify a victim’s parents of the incident within three business days after it has been reported and notify the parents of the aggressor within a reasonable amount of time;
  • They must create procedures for students to anonymously report incidents;
  • They may expel students who engage in serious bullying, including bullying that encourages a student to commit suicide, incites violence against another student, or involves releasing indecent photos of another student;
  • They have strong protections from civil or criminal liabilities when reporting criminal bullying to law enforcement officials;
  • They must provide mental health education;
  • They must expand the role of school counselors to include mediating conflicts among students.

We hope that other state PTAs will consider working to support similar legislation to protect our nation’s most valuable resource—our children. Texas PTA was proud to work with the Molaks to pass David’s Law and we have continued with this partnership. The Molaks regularly present at Texas PTA conferences and provide information about David’s Law through PTA communications.

Getting the Lead Out: An Illinois PTA Advocacy Story

 

When it comes to PTA advocacy, it’s important to remember a few things. First, pay close attention to what your state legislature is doing—it’s up to you to be a watchdog for all children. Next, finding an issue that resonates with your membership is important—making a difference requires a surprising amount of grunt work, so it’s important to stay passionate. And finally, even a handful of PTA advocates can make a big difference. Those are the lessons Illinois PTA learned in 2016.

Senate Bill 550 (SB 550) began as a technical change to the Nuclear Facility Safety Act and wandered through committees for over a year until an amendment in May 2016 completely changed the bill. The bill was now one that would require testing every unique drinking water source in all Illinois public, private, charter and parochial schools for lead. Illinois PTA noticed the change and filed online witness slips in support of the bill. SB 550 passed the Senate on May 31, the last day of the legislative session, and headed to the House where it was assigned to the Rules Committee—a place where bills languish and die from lack of support.

Advocacy Day 2016

Illinois PTA decided to reboot our Advocacy Day in 2016 by moving it to Nov. 16, the first day of the fall veto session. We focused our advocacy on three topics:

  • Adopting a state budget, as Illinois was in the second year without.
  • Supporting a bill to ban the sale of energy drinks to minors based on a PTA resolution.
  • Supporting SB 550, now known as the Lead in Drinking Water Prevention Act.

About a dozen people showed up for Advocacy Day in Springfield, and few were able to get meetings with their actual legislators, so we visited as many legislative aides as possible. As we visited, it became apparent that just about every advocacy organization and lobbyist in Springfield that day was talking about the budget. Mention the budget, and the aide’s eyes would glaze over, and they would just nod along.

But when we mentioned SB 550 and testing for lead in school drinking water, they perked up. We shifted our pitch from focusing on the budget to advocating for SB 550, and by the end of the day, we had personally spoken with 79 legislators and staff. Something else happened that day as well—by that evening, SB 550 had suddenly picked up three new co-sponsors.

Leveraging Voter Voice

Illinois PTA knew that traveling to Springfield would be difficult for some people, so we had also run a “Virtual Advocacy Day” on Nov. 16 using Voter Voice to encourage those who were unable to attend to contact their legislators.

We followed up the next day on our blog, One Voice Illinois, encouraging members to continue to contact their legislators. Throughout the veto session, the bill continued to add co-sponsors, passed through committee with a “Do Pass” recommendation, and had its second reading in the House (all Illinois bills are required to be read on three separate days). There, the bill stalled at the end of the veto session. In a normal year, that would have been the end, but the legislature planned to come back for a lame duck session in January just before the legislators elected in 2016 were sworn in.

So, Illinois PTA decided to really push on SB 550. A blog post on the issue prior to the holidays also went out in our Weekend Update email blast. Contacting legislators in support of SB 550 was one of our four New Year’s resolutions for PTA leaders. A new call to action through Voter Voice had a huge response from our members, and a whopping 78% of our members responding to the call were first-timers.

During the lame duck session, SB 550 added over a dozen new co-sponsors, though an amendment that scaled back the lead testing to schools up through grade 5. The amended bill passed the House with only one no vote and one member voting present, and the Senate concurred with the amended version unanimously. The governor signed the bill into law on Jan. 17.

Results

So what has been the result of SB 550 becoming law? School districts across the state have been testing lead levels and begun dealing with those drinking water sources with dangerously high levels that have been harming children for decades. Illinois PTA highlighted news reports from just a few of the districts that were taking action.

There’s still more to be done—Illinois PTA would like to see mandated testing at the middle and high school levels as well—but with the passage of SB 550, families are being notified when high lead levels are found, and many school districts are already undertaking that testing in middle and high schools on their own.

New Partnership Equips Parents to Advocate for Safer Schools

I can still remember the fear and guilt that washed through me when I first heard a gunman entered my daughter’s elementary school.

Fear because only two months earlier, at a parent-teacher conference, I made comments to my husband about the flaws in the school’s security system. Guilt because I buried the pit in my stomach, despite knowing my child’s safety was in danger, and dismissed my concerns altogether. Guilt because I remember thinking the words, That would never happen here.  Not only did it happen a few months later, my daughter, Emilie, would be one of the victims who would not survive.

After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I vowed to never silence my voice again.  This was the beginning of my journey towards becoming a school safety advocate and co-founding Safe and Sound Schools.

As I travel across the country sharing my story, I am always approached by parents, just like me, who are concerned about their child’s school and feel completely lost about what to do. School communities everywhere were lacking in resources for parents who also wanted to get involved in school safety, and I knew from personal experience how intimidating the process could be.

Safe and Sound Schools is proud to have National PTAs support in helping to launch the Parents for Safe Schools program.  This program is designed for parents who want a more hands-on approach to school safety, from learning more to getting involved, or even becoming an advocate for school safety. Parents for Safe Schools can guide you and members of the PTA on how to get started, and empower you to play a role in protecting your children.

Over the years, I have seen how incredibly powerful the voices of parents advocating for their child can be. There is so much to be done, and Safe and Sound Schools invites you to join our mission. Together we can make our schools safe and sound.


 

Alissa Parker is Co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools and a national school safety advocate.  Inspired by her daughter, Emilie who was killed in the tragedy at Sandy Hook School, Alissa has joined fellow Sandy Hook mom, Michele Gay in building a legacy of safety for school communities across the country.