How Your PTA Can Support Social and Emotional Learning 

We know social and emotional learning (SEL) happens at home and at school, but how do we bridge the two learning environments? That’s where your PTA comes in! 

National PTA has introduced our Healthy Minds program to help families and schools work together to support kids’ mental health and well-being. SEL is a key component of our approach to healthy minds! Throughout the pandemic, PTAs across the nation doubled down on their commitment to SEL in big and small ways. 

For example, to combat feelings of isolation and stress in their communities, many PTAs distributed mental wellness kits. These bags of resources provided a range of materials including everything from stress balls and fidgets for children to use to aromatherapy candles.  

Several PTAs also collaborated with school counselors to support their communities. In Georgia, Bartlett Middle School PTSA implemented a new “Coffee with the Counselors” event series, during which counselors would choose a hot topic and facilitate a discussion for families and students. Families were able to get professional advice on relevant issues and access a safe space to practice having these important discussions with their children. 

Meanwhile, in Utah, Bonneville Elementary PTA used a National PTA COVID-19 Relief Fund Grant to collaborate with school leadership to create a wellness center for students. They transformed an unused classroom into an inviting, therapeutic space distinct from the academic setting. A partition separates the Wellness Center into two main areas:  

  • In the Wellness Room, students can take a break during the school day when they feel stressed or overwhelmed. It is a place to process and connect.  
  • In the Resource Room, parents can find materials to help them manage mental health at home and in the community.  

You can learn more about Bonneville’s innovative approach in our Mental Health/Social-Emotional Support COVID-19 Relief Case Study

If you’re feeling inspired by these SEL success stories, here are some tips for getting started in your own community! 

Educate families about social and emotional learning, and why it matters! For families to reinforce social and emotional learning at home, they need to first understand what SEL is and how their children can benefit from it. There are so many ways PTAs can promote learning in their community, from sharing relevant informational and family activity handouts and podcast episodes, to hosting a book club or an event night. 

Help families and teachers develop a common vocabulary when talking about SEL. Discover what language your school uses when talking about social and emotional learning and life skills. Perhaps they use the CASEL wheel, the Second Step Program, or their own homegrown approach with school-selected core values. Either way, it’s important that all community members are on the same page! You can learn more about key SEL skill areas at PTA.org/SocialEmotional.  

Host activities and events that will help students (and their families) build social and emotional skills. You can incorporate SEL activities into your already existing events like your Fall Festival or even as a welcome before a movie night or pizza party. Feelings Charades is a great example for younger kids that can be adapted to fill just a little bit of time, or a longer window!  

Looking for a fun way to get tweens and teens to grapple with bigger SEL topics like identity, purpose, and decision-making? Hosting an event night where middle and high schoolers write Letters to their Future Selves is a fun way to prompt meaningful reflection. 

For even more ideas and resources, visit PTA.org/SocialEmotional  

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. 

This Tool Teaches Children and Families to #BeCyberSmart

This October we celebrate both National Cyber Security Awareness Month and National Bullying Prevention Month. Through the PTA Connected initiative and with The Smart Talk tool, families have the resources to make Cyber Safety easy and to end cyberbullying for good.

A new school year often can mean new worries. The good news: Cyber Safety and cyberbullying do not need to be one of them! As October is both National Cyber Security Awareness Month and National Bullying Prevention Month, now is a great time to learn more about these important topics. As a parent of two boys and an employee of NortonLifeLock, I am excited to share the work we’ve done with National PTA to help families stay educated and safe.

Now in its 18th year, National Cyber Security Awareness Month was originally created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance. This year, the theme is “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.” Much like the lessons we’ve learned through the global pandemic, #BeCyberSmart focuses on the role we can all play in protecting cyberspace. Whether you’re a teacher, a parent, a student, a CEO or a community member—we all have ways we can contribute to a safer online experience.

National Bullying Prevention Month was started 15 years ago by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center to provide parents and students with the resources and support to better respond to bullying. According to the National Prevention Council, due to vastly increased screen time and social anxiety due to isolation, 43% of teens report being the victim of cyberbullying in the last year. According to the same report, nearly 80% of teens said they either, “did not have parental rules about internet use or found ways around the rules.”

To help families navigate these issues and take charge of their digital lives, NortonLifeLock and National PTA created The Smart Talk—a free, interactive resource that encourages open communication. The Smart Talk was developed so that families could work together to create an agreement about rules and expectations around online behavior and device usage. It covers topics like safety and privacy, screen time, social media, apps and downloads, texting and calling. With reminders throughout that children are capable of making good decisions, the tool asks children to “Let us [caregivers] know if they experience bullying or something that doesn’t feel right.”

The Smart Talk tool is also part of PTA Connected, a National PTA initiative that strives to help children act safely, responsibly and thoughtfully online. NortonLifeLock is proud to be a founding sponsor of the program, which connects caregivers and children to online safety and responsibility forums, planning guides, best practices, community events and much more.

If you’re interested in strategies to discuss cyberbullying with your children and to teach your kids to be #BeCyberSmart, have The Smart Talk with your family today!

Back to School with the TV Parental Guidelines

Have you ever wondered about the meaning behind the small black box filled with letters that appears in the upper left-hand side of your screen at the start of most television shows or movies you see on TV? That’s the TV Parental Guidelines, also known as the TV ratings system, helping parents to make smart decisions about which TV shows are age-appropriate for their families.

Television is often a large part of our lives, particularly the lives of our children, and has only played an increased role during the ongoing pandemic. According to research conducted by the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board (the Board) in August 2020, 64% of parents said TV usage has increased among their children. As all Americans consume more video programming, the TV Parental Guidelines continue to serve as a resource to parents looking to make more informed decisions about what TV shows their kids are watching.

The TV Parental Guidelines is excited to partner with the National PTA during Back-To-School Week and provide parents and educators with the resources they need to ensure an enjoyable and appropriate television experience. This includes the launch of new guidance for how video streaming services can incorporate the TV ratings into their services. We know there are a growing number of streaming platforms available to children and families. According to the August 2020 survey of parents, 84% of children are watching some content via streaming services. Through new guidance (described below) the Board aims to ensure that parents and families encounter a consistent ratings experience across traditional TV networks and streaming services.   

About the TV Parental Guidelines 

The television industry designed the TV Parental Guidelines—also known as the TV ratings system—to give parents more information about the content and age-appropriateness of TV programs. 

The TV Parental Guidelines include two elements: (1) an age-based rating ranging from TV-Y to TV-MA that provides guidance about the age group for which a program is appropriate and (2) content descriptors indicating that a program may contain suggestive dialogue (D), coarse or crude language (L), sexual situations (S), or violence (V). Here is a quick guide: 

  • TV-Y: Programming is typically appropriate for children of all ages.  
  • TV-Y7: Programming is designed for children ages seven and older.  
  • TV-Y7-FV: Indicates that a program contains “fantasy violence” that may be more intense or combative than other TV-Y7 programs.  
  • TV-G: Programming is for a general audience and typically most parents would find this programming suitable for all ages. It contains little or no violence, no strong language and little or no sexual dialogue or situations.  
  • TV-14: Programming contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age. Parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended. This program may contain one or more of the following: intensely suggestive dialogue, strong coarse language, intense sexual situations, or intense violence.  
  • TV-MA: Programming is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17. This program may contain one or more of the following: crude indecent language, explicit sexual activity, or graphic violence. 

A full guide to the TV ratings can be found here and you can download, print and share with your PTA and school community. The TV Parental Guidelines website is also a resource for parents and educators looking for information on the TV ratings. 

Here is what else you should know about the TV Parental Guidelines: 

  • The TV ratings can be used in conjunction with the V-Chip for network television—a device built into most television sets—to allow parents to block out programs they don’t want their children to see. Parental control technology in cable and satellite set-top boxes can also be used with the TV Parental Guidelines to block programs based on their rating. 
  • The Board is comprised of experts from the television industry as well as public interest advocates—including the National PTA—who are responsible for ensuring there is uniformity and consistency in applying the TV Parental Guidelines. The Board also reviews complaints about specific program ratings to help ensure ratings accuracy. 
  • Viewers can contact the Board with questions or concerns about the TV ratings system and controls by mail, email or phone. Individual ratings complaints are passed on to the network on which the program was shown for a direct response. 
  • The Board conducts a biannual survey to understand how parents view the ratings. A complete review of the key findings from 2020 can be found here. According to the Board’s 2020 survey, 95 percent of parents are satisfied with the accuracy of the ratings for TV shows on broadcast and cable television, including more than half who are very satisfied. Four in five parents (80 percent) maintain a favorable opinion of the TV ratings system—up from 76% in 2018. 

About the New Streaming Guidance  

Members of the Board include many companies that operate some of the newest and most popular video streaming services available today including, among others, Discovery+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Paramount+, Peacock, and Tubi. Given the rising popularity of these streaming services and others, the Board created a Streaming Task Force (the Task Force) to evaluate how TV ratings are being made available to parents on new technologies.  

In recent months, the Task Force engaged in conversations with Board member companies that operate video streaming services and initiated informal discussions with outside providers about how they are applying ratings to their own content. The result of these conversations is new ratings guidance designed to help ensure parents and families encounter a consistent ratings experience across traditional television networks and streaming platforms.   

Examples of the new ratings guidance for streaming services include the following recommended best practices: 

  • For all streaming video content that is rated, streaming services should display TV ratings on-screen at the time that a consumer initiates the playback of video. 
  • Video streaming services should apply TV ratings to all content that has been shown on television with ratings and all content that is originally produced for the streaming environment, including on an episode-by-episode basis for episodically rated programs. 
  • Video streaming services should include age-based ratings within the product experience (e.g., as part of narrative program summaries contained on program description screens or within online menus and navigation guides), to the extent practicable after taking into account technical and other reasonable limitations. 
  • Video streaming services will continue to study ratings capabilities and, if practicable in the future, apply TV ratings to additional content, including, for example, archival content that originally was shown on television prior to the adoption of the TV Parental Guidelines.  

The Board knows that as technology changes, so will the ratings guidance for all content partners and providers. The Board is pleased to be comprised of so many industry professionals who are thinking ahead to ensure that parents have relevant information to be able to navigate an increasingly virtual and platform-focused world. Through the Task Force, the Board will continue to have conversations with additional video streamers to recommend they take advantage of the new guidance to help ensure that parents have a consistent ratings experience no matter where their families choose to watch programming. 


Emily Pappas it the executive secretariat of the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board. For more information about the TV Parental Guidelines, visit TVGuidelines.org 

5 Summer Tips to Start Your PTA School Year Strong

Ahhhh, summer. Those long days, outdoor adventures and beautiful nights are here. You survived the end-of-year rat race, and now you’re ready for some well-deserved relaxation. 

Start your summer with a complete break from your PTA leadership duties to allow yourself time to rest and rejuvenate. When you’re ready, take advantage of the important opportunities summer provides for a jumpstart on the upcoming school year with these five helpful tips!

Tip #1: Meet with the Executive Board

Summer is a great time to gather the executive board for an informal meeting to reflect on the past school year and discuss your association’s goals. This gives you a chance to identify specific needs, necessary changes, and volunteer gaps for the upcoming school year. 

It’s also an excellent time to get together for some fun, team-building activities that help you get to know each other a little better! Have a barbecue, talk about your summer plans, or just relax on the patio together. It’s a nice way to foster an enjoyable, cohesive team atmosphere. Just remember to follow the CDC’s COVID-19 safety precautions!

Tip #2: Check in with School Administrators

Your school administrators can be hard to catch during the school year. However, during the summer, their schedule slows down considerably, making it an ideal time for a casual touch-base. 

They’ll likely be planning for the upcoming school year, which gives you the perfect opportunity to ask about their financial needs and goals. Are they hoping to give the playground a facelift or expand technology? This insight will be valuable as you plan your fundraising goals and programs for the year ahead. 

The informal feel of summer also creates a unique space for some relationship-building conversation with your administration. Building a strong connection with your school’s leadership team is key to a successful partnership.

Tip #3: Organize Your “Back to School” Welcome Packet

A little preparation goes a long way! Use this time to pull together the information you will need for your PTA’s “Back to School” welcome packet. Include a calendar of events, important dates, and membership information. Don’t forget to save the date for the official PTA Back-to-School Week, Sept. 13-17, 2021—National PTA will be sharing yearlong solutions, resources and program opportunities to help plan your school year, engage your school community and get support for students and families.

Assembling welcome packets is an easy task for children, so don’t be afraid to enlist the kids to make it go faster. It’s the perfect activity for a rainy afternoon!

Tip #4: Begin Recruiting Volunteers for Next School Year

During the summer, people are less stressed and more likely to say yes to upcoming school-year commitments. Get a jump on recruiting additional volunteers now to start your year off with a full volunteer team. Check out the National PTA Membership page for ideas.

The best way to recruit volunteers over the summer is with a volunteer form you share online. Find out the benefits of a volunteer form, what to include on your form, and grab our free volunteer form template here.

#5: Continue to Communicate with Parents

Don’t shut down your communication channels just because school is out. Staying connected with parents and families is essential, even during summer vacation. 

You can use social media and email to check in, publicize volunteer needs, share exciting school news, and give teasers to get people excited about the fun events you have planned for the upcoming school year. Just remember to keep it light and infrequent.

The back-to-school season can be hectic, especially for active volunteers like you. These five summer tips will ease the transition and lighten the load so your PTA will be all set for another successful school year! 


Booster is the parent brand for the Boosterthon Fun Run which exists to strengthen schools by increasing funds and inspiring students through a remarkable fitness and character-building experience. Dedicated to growing intentional leaders and creating remarkable experiences, Booster is located in Atlanta, GA.  Founded by Chris Carneal, Booster serves schools in more than 37 states.

Getting the Most From School Meals—How Parents Can Help

Have you heard? Nutritious school meals are free for all children through June 30, 2022.

On a regular school day, millions of students have access to nutritious meals through school meal programs including the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. Sadly, a recent report from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) revealed in April 2020 alone, 54 school districts across 28 states and the District of Columbia served 21 million fewer breakfasts and 44 million fewer lunches when compared to October 2019. The fact is that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to increase food insecurity.

But there’s good news too! In response to concerns that children were missing out on nutritious meals, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced the extension of meal service flexibilities. This means schools can now safely offer free school meals to all children, regardless of household income, through June 2022. This includes during summer break. Families should check with their school districts for more information on getting these free meals.

What’s in a School Meal?

You may be wondering what is included in these free breakfasts and lunches. The meals served through these programs must meet specific nutrition requirements, including serving fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and milk. In fact, a recent study from Tufts University found that among children in the United States, foods consumed at schools had the highest overall diet quality of any other food source.

Although these foods are healthy, some children may be hesitant to try the food from school because it may be unfamiliar, or they are just not interested in eating certain foods, like vegetables. Sound familiar? Rather than seeing food go to waste and your child or children not getting the proper nutrition for their growing bodies, you can take steps to encourage healthier eating.

Three generation family washing vegetables in the kitchen

Model healthy eating at home. Reinforcing healthy behaviors both in and out of school is key. Try some of these tips to make it happen:

  • Review school menus with your child and encourage them to try new food items. Use this as an opportunity to talk to your child about what they will be served, and the nutrients provided by the different foods.
  • Get your kids involved in meal planning at home and let them pick a new vegetable or fruit to try each week. This is a great opportunity to have older children research different options for using the fruit or vegetable in a meal.
  • Got a green thumb? Plant a garden at home, or volunteer to help with a community or school garden.

Get involved in school health activities. Although opportunities to get involved may vary in each community as schools work to safely reopen, consider some of these ideas you might be able to participate in to help create a healthier school:

  • Join the school or district committee (wellness committee) that sets the policies for health and wellness.
  • Eat school breakfast or lunch with your child.
  • Offer to help with taste tests or other nutrition promotion activities in the school cafeteria.
  • Talk with the school cafeteria manager about items you would like to see served.

Note: If your child has special nutritional needs—such as allergies, sensitivities, or restrictions due to a medical condition, talk to your school’s cafeteria manager about meal modifications for your child.

More Information:

Research shows that students who participate in the school meal programs consume more whole grains, milk, fruits, and vegetables during meal times and have better overall diet quality, than nonparticipants.(1,2) And, eating breakfast at school is associated with better attendance rates, fewer missed school days, and better test scores.(3–6)

  1. Fox MK, Gearan E, Cabili C, et al. School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study, Final Report Volume 4: Student Participation, Satisfaction, Plate Waste, and Dietary Intakes. Alexandria, VA: US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Policy Support; 2019. https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/resource-files/SNMCS-Volume4.pdf. Accessed June 1, 2021.
  2. Kinderknecht K, Harris C, Jones-Smith J. Association of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act with dietary quality among children in the US National School Lunch Program. JAMA. 2020;324(4):359–368.
  3. Murphy JM, Pagano MR, Nachmani J, Sperling P, Kane S, Kleinman RR. The relationship of school breakfast to psychosocial and academic functioning. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;152:899–107.
  4. Murphy JM, Pagano M, Bishop SJ. Impact of a universally free, in-classroom school breakfast program on achievement: results from the Abell Foundation’s Baltimore Breakfast Challenge Program. Boston, MA: Massachusetts General Hospital; 2001.
  5. Murphy JM, Drake JE, Weineke KM. Academics and Breakfast Connection Pilot: Final Report on New York’s Classroom Breakfast Project. Albany, NY: Nutrition Consortium of New York; 2005.
  6. Myers A, Sampson A, Weitzman M, Rogers B, Kayne H. School Breakfast Program and school performance. Am J Dis Child. 1989;143:1234–9.

#WalkWithMe: Join the movement to build more inclusive, welcoming neighborhoods

Photo Caption: Post on Nextdoor to invite your neighbors to walk in unity

PTA members know that change starts in the neighborhood, and Nextdoor is a place to connect with neighbors from all backgrounds. In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, one very hopeful trend has emerged—neighbors are coming together to walk in solidarity in hopes of creating more inclusive, welcoming communities.

The trend originated with Shawn, a 30-year-old Black man who has lived in and loved his Nashville, Tenn., neighborhood his entire life. Following the murder of George Floyd last year, he posted on Nextdoor to share that he no longer felt comfortable walking in his neighborhood. In response, hundreds of neighbors commented to show their support, reflect on how to create a more welcoming environment, and ultimately come out to walk alongside him. Shawn shared, “I was scared to walk alone and now look who is behind me. Look who has my back.” Countless other neighbors across the country followed in Shawn’s footsteps to start a nationwide movement.

During this time of social isolation, neighbors around the world have found new and unique ways to come together and unite around causes they care about. Nextdoor instantly connects you with everyone nearby, providing a great opportunity to spark a conversation and build real-world connections. There are endless reasons to join the #WalkWithMe movement:

  • With the devastating rise in violence and hateful rhetoric towards Black and Asian-American neighbors, take inspiration from Shawn and join a walk for racial justice and equity.
  • Knowing just six neighbors can reduce loneliness and have drastic health benefits, and a recent study found that most new friendships are made in your own neighborhood. Post #WalkWithMe to meet new people while staying outside and socially-distant.
  • Even the smallest acts of kindness can establish a sense of security and boost your neighborhood unity. Become an active participant in your neighborhood and invite others to explore with you. Whether you walk, skate, roll in a wheelchair, or cheer from the sidelines, everyone has a chance to get involved.
  • Use #WalkWithMe as an opportunity to get outside and get active as we head into summer—neighbors can be the best accountability partners.

By bringing neighbors together, we can cultivate a kinder world where everyone has a neighborhood they can rely on. Post on Nextdoor with #WalkWithMe to share your experience and invite your neighbors to walk.


Nextdoor is the app where you plug into the neighborhoods that matter to you. Our purpose is to cultivate a kinder world where everyone has a neighborhood they can rely on. Neighbors turn to Nextdoor daily to receive trusted information, give and get help, and build real-world connections with those nearby—neighbors, local businesses and public agencies.

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.

4 End of School Year Tips for Parents

Practice healthy habits to help your student end the year on a high note!

April showers have slowly but surely given way to May flowers, which means the end of the school year is fast approaching. It’s been an abnormal school year—to say the least—and Lysol and National PTA want to help all families end the year strong to begin their summer vacations on a high note!

Keep the following tips in mind to help make the end of the school year enjoyable until the last bell rings:

  • Stay positive: There have been a lot of challenging moments over the past year for both parents and students. Applaud your student for all they have done to make the most of modified learning and encourage them to finish strong on any last projects or tests.
  • Enjoy the outdoors: Bring homework outdoors and enjoy the warmer weather! After so much time indoors, studying outdoors can be a positive change of scenery. Welcome homework breaks as well. A quick trip to the park can help your student burn off some of that lingering restlessness and soak up the beautiful sunshine (with SPF, of course).
  • Refresh your gear: Notebooks are filled out and pencil erasers are dull by the end of the school year. It is important that your children still have the right tools to do their best work at the finish line. If necessary, refresh your children’s supplies to help them put forth their best efforts at the end of the year.
  • Encourage your schools to use Welcome Back Packs: Encourage your school to use Lysol’s Welcome Back Packs to provide healthy habit reminders during the last few weeks of school! Welcome Back Packs are available for educators nationwide to download and print. They include fun and educational resources such as informative posters, fun activities, useful stickers templates, and engaging lesson plans that encourage healthy habits such as handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks.

For more information on healthy habits and to download the Welcome Back Packs, please visit Lysol.com/HERE.

Science Is Leading the Way to Reopen Schools

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented immense and immediate challenges for schools across the country. Seemingly overnight, teachers and administrators had to rework their curriculum, shift to online learning, and find ways to engage students of all ages from behind a screen. At the same time, students and parents worked to quickly acclimate to the virtual environment, juggling jobs, school and childcare—all during a global pandemic.

As a mother of three boys, I experienced these challenges and stresses in my own family. My son’s high school held a “back to school night” right after I was nominated to be CDC Director. I heard—as a mother and as the Director—about the difficulties of engaging students on Zoom. Like many of you, I did my best to keep my kids safe while juggling work and other responsibilities.

From the beginning of my tenure as CDC Director, one of the top priorities for the agency has been getting students back into the classroom safely. The science tells us that in addition to education, in-person learning gives our children access to the vital social and mental health services that prepare them for success in our world. That is why CDC strongly believes schools should be the last place to close and the first place to open, to ensure no child goes without these essential services.

We know that students from low-resourced communities, students from ethnic and racial minority communities, and students with disabilities are disproportionately affected by the loss of in-person instruction. By following the science and engaging with our partners, CDC has worked to develop guidance and resources to ensure that every student can learn in the classroom safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Science Is Leading the Way

Science is leading the way in how we respond to COVID-19, including how to get our children back into classrooms during the pandemic—while prioritizing the safety of students, teachers and school staff. Before developing guidance to safely reopen schools, CDC conducted an in-depth review of all the available data and engaged with educational and public health partners to hear first-hand from parents and educators about their experiences and concerns.

I have personally heard the concerns expressed by both parents and school leaders, which ranged from concerns about potentially lost academic progress, to anxiety about personal and family safety if returning to in-person instruction. These discussions, in combination with the latest science, provided the data we needed to develop a strategy for students to safely return to schools in different parts of the country, with varying classroom sizes and resources.

Guidelines for Reopening K-12 Schools

In February, we released the K-12 Operational Strategy for in-person instruction based on evidence that showed K-12 schools could operate safely for in-person instruction if they use layered prevention strategies. Prevention strategies that are layered, or used together, provide the greatest protection against transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The CDC Strategy encourages students, faculty, and staff in school settings to practice prevention behaviors by following these 5 key mitigation strategies:

  1. Universal and correct mask-wearing
  2. Physical distancing
  3. Hand washing and good respiratory etiquette
  4. Cleaning to maintain healthy facilities
  5. Diagnostic testing with rapid and efficient contact tracing, in combination with isolation and quarantine, and collaboration with local health departments

In addition, when CDC released the K-12 Operational Strategy, we noted that the science of COVID-19 is rapidly evolving and we would update our recommendations when new evidence became available. As more studies were published and CDC scientists analyzed the available evidence on physical distancing, it was clear there was ample evidence to update CDC’s recommendations for physical distancing between students in classrooms with universal mask use.

Based on evolving evidence, last week, CDC issued its updated guidance for physical distancing with recommendations for various settings of K-12 education.

  • Elementary schools: Students should remain at least three feet apart in classrooms while wearing a mask, regardless of the level of COVID-19 spread in the community.
  • Middle and high schools: Students should remain at least three feet apart in classrooms while wearing a mask, when community spread of COVID-19 is low, moderate or substantial.
  • For middle and high schools in communities with high spread of COVID19: Students should remain at least six feet apart, unless cohorting is possible.
  • Community settings outside the classroom or in any situation when unmasked: Everyone should maintain at least six feet apart.

A Shared Effort

Getting our children back to school for in-person instruction is a critical step in turning the corner on this pandemic, and partnerships with key stakeholders in education, government and the community are helping schools make this transition. CDC is providing guidance, tools and resources to our educational and public health partners and collaborating through webinars, conferences and other engagements to increase understanding of the operational strategy for K-12 schools and to support schools as they integrate CDC’s recommendations into their schools’ planning.

CDC also recently announced it was providing $10 billion to support COVID-19 diagnostic and screening testing for teachers, staff and students. In addition, CDC’s K-12 Operational Strategy identifies vaccination as an additional layer of prevention that can be added to the five key mitigation strategies. CDC has been working with our federal retail pharmacy partners to prioritize the vaccination of K-12 teachers, staff and childcare workers during the month of March. I am happy to report that our pharmacy partners have vaccinated more than 1.3 million educators, staff, and childcare workers so far, and more than 550,000 of these vaccinations were in the last week alone.  

Last week, at the National Summit on Safe School Reopening, I was able to connect virtually with representatives from the Department of Education and other government and non-governmental organizations to hear from school districts across the country about their challenges and successes in reopening. I was so encouraged to hear about their efforts and the innovations they are implementing in order to get kids back to in-person learning.

Real-World Experience, Science, and Evidence

My youngest son returned to hybrid school about a month ago, and he’s thrilled to be back. While I know many students are also looking forward to joining their peers in a classroom setting, I realize that the decision to have your child return to in-person learning is not an easy one. My hope for the future is based on real-world experience, science and evidence—and we now have that experience, science, and evidence as well as the resources to get our children back to school across the nation.


Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, is the 19th Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the ninth Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.