Maximizing In-Person Learning in the Era of COVID

We have the tools to keep students in the classroom and safe from COVID; we just have to use them—was one of the takeaways from a National PTA–hosted symposium on maximizing in-person learning days for students across the country.

The symposium, which took place during the National PTA 125th Anniversary Convention in June, featured a two-part panel discussion moderated by NBC News Correspondent Rehema Ellis on how our nation can plan a path forward from the COVID pandemic and how parents and caregivers can support student safety and well-being.

National PTA President Anna King kicked off the event, noting that, “it is vital to ensure the continuity of education for every child and to support children’s success socially and emotionally.”

The first panel included U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., MBA, and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Ed.D.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Murthy discussed how research and science can help inform parents’ and caregivers’ decision making around vaccinating children to protect them against COVID, as well as the mental health impacts of the pandemic on students and resources for parents on how to support their children.

As of July 28, 2022, over 140,000 children under 18 have been hospitalized and over 1,700 have died since the pandemic began.

“We should not tolerate those kinds of losses if we have a tool that can reduce hospitalizations and death,” said Surgeon General Murthy. “That tool is the vaccine.” He said that testing is another tool at our disposal that can help keep kids safe and keep them in class by detecting infections early on.  

U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Cardona highlighted the resources made available through the American Rescue Plan to promote safe school operations and in-person learning. He also implored parents to help keep schools accountable with how they spend the money they received and how vital family engagement is at this time.  

“As the father of two teenagers, I know parenting can feel like you’re building the plane as you fly, and over these last two years with the pandemic, not only were you building the plane, you were flying it through a monsoon, but you did it,” said Secretary Cardona. “For the last two years, together we fought COVID, and for the next two years, together, let’s fight complacency.”

By complacency, Secretary Cardona was referring to the status quo in education prior to the pandemic, in which the education system “worked for some but not all.”

“Instead,” said Secretary Cardona, “let’s embrace this disruption in education to reimagine parental engagement. Let’s embrace intentional collaboration with our students’ best and more influential teachers: the parents.”

The second panel featured Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) Board Chair Timothy Shriver, Ph.D.; American Academy of Pediatrics President-Elect Sandy Chung, M.D.; and National PTA Healthy Minds Ambassador Shaton Berry, MSW. They spoke about the need to protect children’s mental health in addition to their physical health.

“We all want our children to feel emotional safety so that they can feel physical safety,” said Dr. Shriver. “You don’t get to physical safety unless you have emotional safety.”

But, as Dr. Chung pointed out, our nation faces a shortage of the professionals we traditionally turn to for help: mental health providers. “We were always taught to refer to mental health providers, but there is a national shortage,” said Dr. Chung. “I was referring kids to someone, and they would have to wait six months to get an appointment.”

Dr. Chung encouraged parents and caregivers to reach out to their child’s pediatrician or other health care providers for help. “Whether or not your pediatrician may know exactly what to do will vary depending on their training and experience,” she said. “But if they don’t know what to do, they’ll know where to help you find care. The key here is just to remember you’re not in this alone.”      

“In this conversation about mental health,” said National PTA Healthy Minds Ambassador Berry, “we’re looking at it wrong. We’re looking at it from that the school is going to fix the community. And we have to think about how the community has to fix the school. If we’re not having conversations about mental health in our family, it’s never going to come into our school building.”

Berry had the following advice for parents: “As you’re having conversations with your babies every day, instead of saying, ‘What did you do today?’ Ask them, ‘How did you feel today?’ And change the narrative of how you’re talking about feelings and how you’re engaging with your child because that is a different conversation.”

The symposium was supported by Proud National PTA Sponsor Thermo Fisher Scientific and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ We Can Do This campaign.

Four Tips for Leading with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Mind

Talking about diversity, equity and inclusion is the first step but to walk the walk, we need to look intentionally at different approaches and perspectives. Before you dive in, step zero is finding what motivates your diversity, equity and inclusion work. 

Checking Your Practices and Your Privilege 

Now that we reconnected with our why. Let us go and check our practices. We need to try them all and find the ones that are the best practices for our community. Yes, what works for my area might not work for yours, but if we need, we can adjust it or move to another practice. Once we find those best practices, we need to adopt and document them to help our PTA grow.  

It can be challenging to examine our privilege, but we need to understand what got us here, what we earned, and what we didn’t. We need to think about what we have and what we can give or start for the community. We need to consider when we make unconscious assumptions. Recognize talent and potential are equally distributed, but opportunity is not. 

Reducing Unconscious Bias 

To reduce our unconscious bias, we need to be aware of what it is and how it can affect the people around us. Our values, family experiences, culture, and experiences are huge factors in how we see, judge, and categorize others and ourselves. We need to question ourselves and the group we work with. Ask yourself: What evidence do I have? Is my opinion based on the truth? Is this always true? With this information, we can start creating inclusive practices for our events (meetings, programs, fundraisers, etc.).  

Creating a Welcoming Space 

Our greetings and acknowledgment are vital to setting the tone. A smile and cheerful hi make a difference. Move around. Don’t always sit with the same group. Make it a conscious decision to shift where your board members sit every so often. It says a lot when we are playing on our cellphones during meetings! If we disagree with something, we should provide constructive feedback rather than giving a negative response. If you are the lead for the event, ask for everyone’s opinion. We need to create a supportive dialogue where we acknowledge feelings and clarify our conversation so we can avoid assumptions. Be open to challenging questions and situations and make sure the final decision is balanced. 

Developing Leaders for Lasting Impact 

Dive into the data. In our PTA world, it doesn’t matter if 30% of your board is from minority groups if we don’t provide the opportunity to grow as leaders. Acknowledging intersectionality is important, highlighting invisible or layered identities of our community. Recognize that unconscious bias requires mitigation, not only training. Take the time, not the easy shortcut, and recognize non-linear experiences. We, as a group, need to explore the evidence, find a solution for all to move forward, and make sure to act.  

Welcome to Thrive

Thrive. The PTA Learning Community

Greetings PTA Members,

Welcome to Thrive: The PTA Volunteer Learning Community!

Thrive! is PTA’s new online learning community for volunteers. Thrive brings PTA leadership development to you. Through Thrive’s engaging, short courses, you can take training at your own time and place—even from football practice, a dance studio or a soccer field.

I’m so excited about the potential that Thrive brings to National PTA. Leadership development has been a priority for PTA for many years. But our reach has been limited. Throughout this pandemic, we have learned that online is working for our members. Our impact has been expanding, with more people coming to meetings and trainings. So just think of how many future leaders we will be able to reach through this new online community of learners!

What is Thrive?

Thrive is Engaging: Thrive engages every volunteer in their own time and place. Because you can stop a course and start back in your own time, Thrive makes leadership development fit into your life when and how you need it to. Your leadership development thrives in your life!

Thrive is Empowering: Thrive empowers all volunteers to advocate for all children. Volunteers gain new knowledge and skills that help their local and state PTAs operate at peak level. Thrive’s accessible content means every volunteer has access to the most up-to-date, high-quality information about best practices and techniques for helping all children achieve their potential.

Thrive is for you: No matter where you are in your leadership journey, as a lifelong learner there is something in Thrive for you!

Remember, it’s the quality and power of individual actions that can make the difference. The more we learn, the louder our collective voices will become to create change for all children and young people.

Ready to get started? Our help page contains instructions for signing up and taking courses.

Anna King, National PTA President

We Are Well Beyond Enough Is Enough

In less than three weeks we’ve had a mass shooting in a grocery store, a shooting at a church, shootings at three separate high school graduations, another horrific shooting at a school, and more gun violence in our communities. This past weekend in my home state of Oklahoma, 1 person was killed and 7 injured after a shooting at an outdoor festival in Taft, Okla.

Last week, 19 children and two adults killed in an elementary school—second, third and fourth graders. Our precious children, grandchildren, godchildren, nieces and nephews.

And this was at least the 30th shooting at a K-12 school this year alone. Why?

There are no real words that can accurately convey the horror, anger, sadness and disgust I continue to feel, as gun violence continues to take innocents lives in our country.  

We have called for change repeatedly. We have prayed for change. It’s past time to make change to save lives.

In America, we teach our children that they’ve inherited life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but for far too long children have been taken from us because of inexplainable and senseless violence. Instead of confidently going to school and learning in a safe and peaceful classroom, these incidents have made us focus on safety measures and drills for active shooter situations. These incidents also have our children living in fear, wondering if a shooting like this could happen at their school. And parents and guardians are afraid to send their children to school, what should be a safe place and the best place for them to learn and thrive.

If we can’t protect our children from gun violence and keep them safe at school, how can we help them reach their full potential? And who will carry our nation into a brighter future?

There could not be a more urgent time for our elected officials to take action and for everyone to come together to be there for our nation’s students. We immediately need real solutions that will save lives and make our schools and communities safer for everyone.

PTA has been the conscience of our country on issues affecting children and youth for 125 years, and we will not go numb and we will never stop speaking loudly and demanding more for every child and young person across our country.

PTA will be heading to Capitol Hill June 15 to meet members of Congress in-person and advocate for youth safety and violence prevention and youth mental health. We urge everyone to join us.

We also ask everyone to use our VoterVoice system to send an urgent message to your members of Congress to insist they work across the aisle and pass sensible gun safety and violence prevention policies that ensure our children are protected from harm.

It’s time to recharge our efforts and actively engage in your local communities in creating safe and supportive schools for our kids. Host a school safety forum and have a conversation with your school principals about school safety policies and procedures.

Join us in showing support for gun violence prevention on Wear Orange Day, Friday, June 3, by wearing something orange, taking a picture of yourself in your orange and posting it on your social media accounts using the hashtags #Enough and #EndGunViolence.

And as we all deal with these heartbreaking events, we must also make sure to take care of ourselves and our families and talk to our children about what happened in Uvalde. It’s important that our children hear from us to help counteract fear they may feel and give them reassurance. Use these resources on mental health, grief and loss and use these tips for discussing difficult situations with children.

We’ve been thinking and praying. It’s time to replace thoughts and prayers with action, policy and change. Let’s do something to save lives and help our children and young people feel safe again. We will not rest until they are able to feel safe in our schools, and thrive to reach their full potential.

Helping Families Navigate Today’s COVID-19 Environment

National PTA hosted a virtual town hall May 18, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support families in navigating today’s COVID-19 environment. The event featured CDC COVID-19 Response Principal Deputy Incident Manager Dr. Greta Massetti, White House Senior Policy Advisory Dr. Cameron Webb, American Academy of Pediatrics Spokesperson Dr. Ilan Shapiro, National PTA President Anna King and PTA leaders Christel Wesley and Sandra West. The town hall was moderated by Spectrum News National Health Correspondent and mom Erin Billups.

“At PTA, we remain committed to making sure that our students, families, schools and communities have what they need as the COVID-19 environment evolves,” said Anna King, National PTA president. “We’re continuing to provide communities–through virtual events like the town hall and in-person events like pop-up clinics–with important information, resources and professional expertise, especially as we move into the summer months.”

During the town hall, Dr. Massetti, Dr. Webb and Dr. Shapiro spoke about being parents themselves and how research and science can help inform parent and caregiver decision making around COVID-19 and vaccinating children. 

“The past two years have not been easy, but our parents, educators and children have shown remarkable innovation and resilience. The health of our children has been at the forefront of my mind, in my role at the CDC and as a parent. Research and science played a critical role in our guidance and recommendations, specifically around vaccines,” said Dr. Greta Massetti, CDC COVID-19 Response Principal Deputy Incident Manager.“Vaccines continue to play a leading role in our health strategy and enable students to return to in-person learning. By allowing children to learn in safe and healthy environments, vaccines not only protect children’s physical health but also their overall health.”

“I’ve been approaching the pandemic not only as a policy advisor to the White House but also as a parent,” said Dr. Cameron Webb, White House Senior Policy Advisor. “My number one goal is keeping my kids healthy and safe, and the first step in doing that was making sure that I was only engaging with data-based, truthful information. The data shows that the COVID-19 vaccine, specifically for children 5-11, is safe and works. Harnessing data and science and applying that to your decision-making process is key. It is our responsibility to not only protect ourselves, but also the more vulnerable members of our community.”

“In addition to my job as a pediatrician, I also have the job of father. I wanted to make sure that my kids are safe, happy and protected–and this was accomplished by getting them vaccinated,”said Dr. Ilan Shapiro, the medical director of health education and wellness at AltaMed Health Service and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.“Honest, fact-based conversations like this National PTA town hall provide parents and caregivers with the necessary information to make them comfortable in this changing landscape.”

Moderator Erin Billups also spoke with PTA leaders Christel Wesley and Sandra West about PTA’s ongoing efforts to keep children healthy and in school by building vaccination confidence in local communities.

“We wanted to make sure that we were providing reliable, science-based information to enable families to make the choice around vaccination that’s best for them. The next step was the proper dissemination of this information to communities of all shapes and sizes,”said Christel Wesley, vice president of Adams Elementary PTA in Norman, Okla. “Our pop-up clinic gave parents and caregivers a safe space to speak with a pediatrician, which is not something all families have routine access to.”

Sandra West, president of Miami Dade County Council of PTAs said, “Data became really important to us because it allowed us to prioritize the areas of need to concentrate on. Access to vaccination sites, even in a big city like Miami, was a challenge, and it forced us to come up with solutions. Our pop-up clinic was initially drive-through only and didn’t take into account how many residents don’t have access to a car. When we created a walk-up section, we were able to reach a whole new group of people who wanted to get vaccinated but didn’t previously have access.”

The impact of the pandemic, both physically and mentally, has been felt by families nationwide. Now, as most localities have lifted their mask and COVID-19 restrictions, many parents are now faced with a new set of decisions about how to best protect their children against the virus. A recording of the town hall can be watched on National PTA’s Facebook page.

4 Reasons You Should Vaccinate Your Child Against COVID-19

We Can Do This CDC Covid Vaccination

1. There’s no way to know if your child will get severely ill and even die from COVID-19

Since the pandemic began, one in six children under the age of 18 in the United States have been infected with COVID-19. Among those children, over 100,000 have been hospitalized and nearly 1,500 have died due to the virus.

COVID-19 can also cause multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but serious illness that involves painful swelling in different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs and brain. Nearly 8,000 children with COVID-19 have also had MIS-C; 66 of those children have died.

Doctors say children with certain health issues—such as asthma, diabetes, obesity and sickle cell disease—have a greater chance of getting very sick from COVID-19.

But even perfectly healthy children can get very sick from COVID-19. A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that almost half of children hospitalized with COVID-19 had no other health issues. News outlets repeatedly run reports like this one in The Florida Times-Union of children with no known health issues dying from COVID-19.

2. Even a mild case of COVID-19 can leave your child with long-lasting health problems

Estimates vary, but as many as one in four children who get COVID-19 can have new or lingering symptoms that last for weeks or months after infection.

Common “Long COVID” symptoms in children include sleep problems, tiredness, headaches, trouble concentrating and joint and muscle pain.

Even kids in tip-top shape aren’t safe from the grip of long COVID. An article in STAT chronicled how one teenage gymnast went from training daily for hours to struggling to walk up a flight of stairs after contracting COVID-19.

3. Your child could spread COVID-19 to people who are in greater danger of severe illness

Children are just as likely as adults to get and spread COVID-19.  

If your child gets COVID-19, they could be putting other people at risk, especially if they live in a multigenerational household or interact with people with certain health issues.

Older adults and people of all ages—including children with health issues—are at the greatest risk of experiencing severe illness from COVID-19.  

4. It will be safer for your child to go to school and participate in sports and other group activities after vaccination

Vaccination is the best thing you can do to protect your child from the dangers of COVID-19.

Since vaccines became available, people in all age groups, including children, who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines have been less likely to test positive, be hospitalized, and die from COVID-19 than unvaccinated people. Vaccinated people are also less likely to get MIS-C and long COVID-19.

If your child is up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, you can send them to school and to play with others, confident that they have the best possible protection against COVID-19.

Right now, everyone ages five and older can get vaccinated. Find COVID-19 vaccines near you at Vaccines.gov.

If you have any questions or concerns about vaccinating your child, talk to your child’s health care provider!

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We Can Do This is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 Public Education Campaign. Get more info and resources at WeCanDoThis.HHS.gov.

We Can Do This: Strategies to Address Vaccine Hesitancy through Local PTAs

Insights and Resources from our Recent Roundtable

National PTA’s urgent work to build vaccine confidence is well underway in 19 communities across the country. Recently we hosted a virtual roundtable to equip PTA leaders with accurate information and practical strategies to help address vaccine hesitancy and leverage every strategy to make schools safer for children and staff and maximize in-person learning. (Note: National PTA does not have a position on COVID vaccine mandates.)

Here, we share highlights from the conversation and resources local PTAs can put into practice right away.

Take Action to Keep Kids Safely in School: What Your PTA Can Do to Address Vaccine Hesitancy

Roundtable, February 2, 2022

  • Shaton Berry, Healthy Minds Ambassador, National PTA
  • Kate King, DNP, M.S., RN, LSN, President Elect, National Association of School Nurses
  • Laura Mitchell, Vice President of Advocacy, Montgomery County Council of PTAs, and Whole Child Fellow, National PTA
  • Michael Scott, CHES, Senior Program Manager, The Center for Black Health and Equity

  • Special Guest: Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, M.D., United States Surgeon General
  • Facilitator: Anna King, President, National PTA
  • Co-Facilitator: Nathan R. Monell, CAE, Executive Director, National PTA

Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy: The Surgeon General kicked off the conversation by thanking the PTA leaders who are already hard at work leading vaccine confidence campaigns in their communities. He noted the important role PTAs and community organizers can make in a moment like this, serving as a bridge to accurate and accessible information that is attuned to local concerns.

As a parent of young children himself, Dr. Murthy also expressed empathy toward any fully vaccinated parents and caregivers that may feel cautious about vaccinating their children, and acknowledged it is important that hesitant parents and caregivers be given the opportunity to express their concerns and be provided factual information. He observed that misinformation about vaccines circulating on social media platforms may have caused some parents and caregivers to become fearful. He noted that trusted messengers like local pediatricians, fellow parents, and other respected community members are likely the best positioned to help assuage such fears.

Kate King: School nurses are on the frontlines of the pandemic, but they can’t do this work alone. She urged collaboration among parent groups, school nurses, local boards of health and cultural organizations to help families overcome misinformation and make better-informed vaccine decisions. She urged parents and PTA leaders to speak with their own school nurse to access their recommended local resources. (If your school doesn’t have an assigned nurse, advocate for getting one!) Kate recommended several additional sources for reliable vaccination information:

Laura Mitchell: PTAs have a big role to play in helping our communities reach a safer post-pandemic stage. The key: Talk about vaccination everywhere! When families get comfortable asking questions from a trusted source, like their PTA, they are more likely to get vaccinated. Mitchell shared several successful conversation strategies from the Montgomery County Council PTA, who recently partnered with doctors to host “Vax Facts” webinars in multiple languages, teamed up with schools to get out the word about vaccine clinics, and regularly posts information in high-traffic locations, including grocery stores and their schools’ digital platforms.

Shaton Berry: When we help families make informed vaccine decisions, we’re supporting their health and mental health by reducing overall anxiety. Local PTA leaders don’t need to be health experts to navigate these conversations – they can tap into the National PTA family for ideas, tools and support. Shaton recommended three resources in particular:

Michael Scott: African-Americans continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and this population is less likely to be vaccinated and more likely to experience severe illness or death due to the pandemic. It is important to acknowledge the historical events that have contributed to vaccine hesitancy among the Black community and other historically marginalized groups, and to recognize the racial inequity that persists today in our health care experiences. Scott highly recommends these two resources, developed by or in partnership with The Center for Black Health & Equity:

As we reflect on the learnings from this round table, National PTA wants to recognize and acknowledge that some PTAs may be having a hard time determining and navigating your role in increasing vaccine confidence within communities where this issue has become especially polarizing.

In communities with a lot of hesitancy, your PTA may want to start by facilitating a forum for people to express their concerns and hear from trusted local messengers (such as pediatricians, coaches, and clergy). Your PTA can choose a couple of fact-based COVID-19 resources to share with the families who participate in the forum.

Whereas in other communities where the issue is less around hesitancy and more around eliminating barriers to access. In that case, your PTA may want to help support a vaccine clinic – or host one! – and use the power of PTA to address issues like transportation, translation services, food, awareness and so forth.

We hope you’ll find these insights and specific resources helpful. Keep your eye out for more updates from National PTA in the weeks ahead as we continue building vaccine confidence together. Together, we can do this!

Climate Change Solutions: You’re More Powerful Than You May Think 

Life as a parent can be overwhelming. This is particularly true when addressing complicated issues like climate change, which can make us feel helpless and overwhelmed. It’s easy to want to disengage, even though we know it impacts future generations. 

But we need to remember that when we use our skills for good and work together as a community, we can be powerful!

To address climate change, we can do so much that is small, yet impactful and within our sphere of influence. Together these drops in the bucket can not only improve our optimism and wellbeing and might make all the difference on a larger scale. 

I like to think of the Earth as a loved one who is ailing. When our child isn’t feeling well, we take a holistic approach and consider all of their needs—what they need to eat, how much water they’ve had to drink, and how they’re feeling mentally and emotionally.  

For me, I was inspired to use a holistic approach for my late husband while he was in the latter stages of cancer. Of course, he needed medical and nutritional (physical) care, but I sensed right away that physical care alone would not harness all the resources he needed for healing. I felt that making sure he felt safe, loved, and cared for would give him the best chance for recovery.  

I believe we’re in this scenario with Earth now. She’s waiting on us to care for all of her and appreciate all the wonderful things she provides, while taking better care of her.  

Plus, environmental psychology shows us that fostering an intimate connection with nature also benefits our mental, emotional, and physical health. In other words, the stress and anxiety that I may feel about Earth, or any other issue, are soothed and improved by deepening my relationship with Earth and the natural world. We’re in this together! 

I feel there is no one right way to approach Earth care; she needs attention in the vast number of ways we’re inclined to provide it. Our hearts know the way, just as we intuitively sense what our children or other loved ones need during times of challenge or crisis. 

My own list will differ from yours, but includes: 

  • Being present and giving nature my full attention, even for a few minutes each day. 
  • Noticing the condition and beauty of her flora, fauna, and minerals when outdoors. 
  • Providing care and help when I notice an opportunity, such as picking up trash, pruning a plant or writing to a lawmaker. 
  • Expressing gratitude and appreciation for her care, beauty, and inspiration, even if only in my thoughts. 
  • Listening deeply to her whispers, large gestures, and everything in between. 
  • Touching her plants, trees, ground, and water with my hands or bare feet. 
  • Praying for her healing and wellness. 

Though we may not always think about how to foster a loving relationship with Earth, our children and many indigenous people have not. They are our inspiration and teachers in so many ways, most especially regarding how to listen to, celebrate, and love Earth. Inviting others and using creative and physical expression to show our affection and admiration for Earth are rejuvenating practices for us, and maybe even for Earth.


Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert, MAPP, PhD is the Founder and Convener for Mission and Vision at the Foundation for Family and Community Healing., which offers modules on improving our relationship with ourselves, each other, and Earth. 

New Tools to Advance Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

National PTA is committed to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) but what does that look like in action? To answer that question, we partnered with 14 local units to test out new DEI strategies which led to the development of three new tools, the Diversity Profile, the Facilitator’s Guide, and the Action Plan Template. If you’ve already reviewed the Local Leader Guidance for DEI and are wondering what next steps you should take, read on to explore our latest tools! 

Diversity Profile 

Who lives in your community? This may seem like a simple question, but answering it well requires an in depth understanding of the families at your school. Our Diversity Profile Template will walk you through important demographic questions about your community. Questions like: what religions are represented? What is the racial demographic breakdown of your community? What is the median household income?  

After finding out that information, challenge yourself to think critically: Does your PTA board and membership reflect your community? 

Facilitator’s Guide 

If you notice that there are voices missing, it is time to figure out why. How can you create a more inviting PTA that offers leadership opportunities that draw in all members of your community? Our Enhancing DEI Facilitator’s Guide offers step by step instructions for hosting a listening session where you can learn more about how families want to engage with the school and the PTA. The guide includes a meeting agenda complete with questions you can ask families to better understand their experiences and reimagine your PTA in ways that better meet everyone’s needs. Most of all, these conversations are opportunities for intentional relationship building with families who you may not typically interact with! 

One of the grantees shared that their use of the facilitator’s guide really made an impact: “Even though we needed to conduct our listening sessions on Zoom in order to be COVID-safe, our virtual introductions to new-to-PTA parents are already starting to blossom into real-life relationships now that our school has reopened.” 

Action Plan 

Listening is an important first step, but you can’t stop there. After you listen to families, the real work begins. How will you address their concerns, answer their questions, implement their ideas?  

Another grantee shared their own DEI goals, “The first thing we want to do is have a workshop for new PTSA leadership and committee chairs (and anyone else interested) on culturally responsive skills. We want to improve outreach and communication and be sure that our meeting agendas speak to issues that are relevant to all families and that our meetings are conducted in ways that are inclusive.” 

Our Enhancing DEI Action Plan Template provides a structure for you and your board to plan next steps like these. Remember to keep families in the loop as you continue your planning! The action plan is a great way to re-engage the families you listened to. Ask them to weigh in on the draft and make additions or edits. These new strategies and initiatives will be most successful if they are co-created by the PTA board and the rest of your community! 

For more guidance on how your PTA can use these tools, watch our webinar, ”Turning Your Commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion into Action” and keep up with our latest resources at www.pta.org/diversity!  

Be SMART Reduces Unintentional Shootings and Suicides

The past year has brought extreme changes and challenges to our children, families, schools and communities. It has been stressful, difficult and even scary.

While we have grappled with the effects of COVID-19, we have also seen the reports about 2020 being a deadly year for gun violence and 2021 continuing in the same pattern. These stories, coupled with the rise in gun sales (many to first time gun owners), are troubling even before you consider the recent research showing that unintentional shootings by children have also increased during the pandemic.

In my own state, we have seen a devastating uptick in gun suicides by young people. In fact, in January 2021 the Clark County School District—the largest in Nevada and the fifth largest in the U.S.—announced it would begin the process of reopening schools due in part to a surge in youth suicides in the area.

As a volunteer leader with Moms Demand Action in Nevada and a member of the Board of Directors for National PTA, I am deeply concerned about gun suicides and unintentional shootings. But I also worry about what might happen when all children return to school full-time. We know that unsecured firearms also fuel gun violence outside the home. In incidents of gun violence on school grounds, up to 80% of shooters under the age of 18 obtained their guns from their own home, a relative’s home, or a friend’s home.

According to the #NotAnAccident Index, which has tracked unintentional shootings by children since 2015, nearly 350 children in the U.S. under the age of 18 gain access to a firearm and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else each year—equaling almost one unintentional shooting per day. Another 700 children die by gun suicide each year, most often using guns belonging to a family member.

There is a simple way to reduce these shootings. Research shows that keeping firearms locked, unloaded and separated from ammunition can save lives—especially the lives of those taken by unintentional shootings and gun suicides. In fact, a 2019 study estimated that if half of all households with children switched from leaving their guns unlocked to keeping them locked and securely stored, one-third of youth gun suicides and unintentional deaths could be prevented—saving an estimated 251 lives in a single year.

So how do we begin? Following the Be SMART program is a good first step. Developed by the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, the Be SMART program helps parents and other adults normalize conversations about gun safety and take responsible actions that can prevent child gun deaths and injuries. National PTA was on board from the start, and continues to support the program’s success.

The program encourages parents and adults to:

  • Secure all guns in their home and vehicles
  • Model responsible behavior around guns
  • Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes
  • Recognize the role of guns in suicide
  • Tell their peers to be SMART

In the last five years, Be SMART has served as a model for parents, schools and PTAs across the country to educate parents and adults on how to keep their children and families safe from gun violence.

As gun violence continues to be one of the leading causes of death for children and teens, we must do everything we can to keep our families, communities, schools and children safe from this public health crisis. And we must work together. Join the fight by getting involved with Moms Demand Action and PTA.


Alison Turner is a National PTA Board Member, Nevada PTA Vice-President for Advocacy, and a volunteer leader with Moms Demand Action in Nevada.