4 Back to School Tips for Parents

Practice healthy habits so we can be “stronger together” this back to school season!

Lysol and National PTA hope families everywhere enjoyed their summer vacation and the quality time that comes with it! This school year is the first time many students are back together at school following the COVID-19 pandemic. Children are stronger together in the classroom, so it’s important to follow the below healthy habits to help keep students at school, learning from teachers—and each other—this academic year:

  • Complete all health requirements: Schedule your annual checkups including medical, eye, and ear exams for your child, and ensure they are up to date with their immunizations. This will help ensure your child is ready for the school year.
  • Go to bed on time: We know bedtime can vary over the summer, but it’s important to get back on a regular sleep schedule to be energized and refreshed for the day. Students aged 6-12 should sleep 9-12 hours a night, while students aged 13-18 should aim for 8-10 hours a night. Sleeping the recommended length of time helps students stay focused and improves academic performance.1
  • Get the right supplies: Prepare your student for success by acquiring all school supplies early. Make a list to double check what you may already have at home and pick up everything your child needs to start the year. Each school year presents its own unique challenges, and the correct supplies can help your student be ready to tackle anything that comes their way.
  • Practice healthy habits: Lysol is proud to support healthy habits at home and in school through the Here for Healthy Schools initiative. Encourage teachers, administrators, and school leaders to utilize Lysol resources and downloadable activities on handwashing, germ transmission, and other valuable lessons available through the Healthy Habits Program. Practicing healthy habits can help curb the spread of illness-causing germs in classrooms and support a successful school year!

Healthy habits are important to instill in children so they can feel their best as they come together at school. This year, Lysol captured candid conversations from real students who shared who they really are and said what they really think on topics such as celebrating differences, what they missed about school, and more. Please visit Lysol.com/HERE to watch and learn more.

6 Essential Back-to-School Supplies

Your average school supply list contains the usual suspects: No. 2 pencils, glue sticks, plus folders in every color of the rainbow. But these are just a few of the tools that fuel success in the classroom. Teachers and students need other items you might not immediately think of—and that might be missing from your classroom supply lists. 

PTAs can help source school supplies in a number of ways. Whether you DIY or delegate to a third-party vendor, PTA leaders can work to ensure each classroom list is complete. Here are six items worth considering (and why!).

1. Hand sanitizer and hand soap – As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, healthy habits are a must. Students are encouraged to wash their hands several times throughout the day, especially before mealtimes. Hand soap is most useful for classrooms with their own sinks, while hand sanitizer can get the job done when soap and water aren’t readily available. Either way, students go through these items quickly—which is why it’s important to make sure they never run out.

2.  Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol® Disinfectant SprayDisinfecting wipes and sprays from Lysol are essential to help prevent the spread of illness-causing germs and tackle unexpected messes in the classroom. For peace of mind, many teachers disinfect high-touch classroom surfaces like desktops, doorknobs and light switches daily. Include these products on every class’s back-to-school supply list, and you’ll ensure a steady supply through cold-and-flu season and beyond.

3. Sandwich bags – Sandwich bags (ideally with zip-top closure) are super-handy for distributing individual portions of snacks, manipulatives or craft supplies. If students need to pause mid-way through an activity, they are perfect for storing loose pieces until the following day. Sandwich baggies are also useful for securing items that become broken or lost, such as a piece of jewelry or even a baby tooth that comes out during the school day! The list goes on, which is why every classroom should have a stock of sandwich bags (and reuse them as much as possible).

4. Pencil pouches – It’s all too easy for backpacks, desks and lockers to become littered with small school items. Students need an easy way to corral their writing implements, pencil sharpeners and such. Teachers tend to prefer pencil pouches to pencil boxes because they are more durable and less bulky—plus, they often sport loops to fit into three-ring binders.  

5. Earbuds – Technology has an ever-growing presence in the classroom, with many students using school-issued tablets or laptops. Earbuds are a great alternative to traditional headphones because they take up less room. When each student has their own pair of earbuds, they can easily make the switch to independent learning with their devices. Even if your school provides a pair of earbuds, it doesn’t hurt to buy extra, in case they become misplaced.

6. Academic planner – It’s never too early to help kids learn organization and time-management—and for young digital natives, a paper planner or personal organizer can be just the tool they need. Consider putting academic planners on the list for older students who can write proficiently, generally late elementary school and beyond. With an academic planner they can track homework assignments, upcoming tests and other important information (and relish the joy of crossing off those to-dos!). The ideal planner offers weekly and monthly views of their schedule, with the ability to customize school subjects. But many students enjoy the opportunity to pick the academic planner that works best for them.

A thoughtful school supply list captures everything teachers and students need to thrive in the classroom. Take a look at yours and see what items may need to be added—to ensure a fun, productive and healthy year for your entire school community.

Lysol is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA. This article contains sponsored content from third parties.National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service.

4 Ways Your PTA Can Simplify School Supplies

From crayons to calculators, students rely on a steady stream of school supplies to make it through the academic year. But securing these items can be a challenge for teachers and parents, especially when supply lists are long and they differ from grade to grade, even from classroom to classroom.

That’s where PTA leaders can step in to support teachers, facilitate student learning and make life easier for families. And no matter how your PTA chooses to get involved, this is also an opportunity to check that your classroom lists include all the essentials, including commonly overlooked items like Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol® Disinfectant Spray. If your PTA is looking to help with school supplies, here are four models to consider.

1. Buy in Bulk

How It Works: With teacher supply lists in hand, your PTA can take on the lion’s share of the work by purchasing the necessary items in bulk, either in person or online. Once the supplies arrive, PTA members sort, assemble and distribute the school supply kits to every classroom.

How It’s Funded: In late spring or early summer, the PTA asks for contributions from each family (typically $20 to $45 per student, which is less than they would pay to buy the school supplies themselves). Parents can even make a tax-deductible donation to help cover supplies for those who are unable to pay. Any leftover money can be applied to the PTA general fund, and surplus supplies can be stored for the next school year.

Why PTAs Like It: Not only does this approach reduce much of the burden for teachers and parents, it also opens up short-term PTA volunteer opportunities for people who like to bargain-hunt or who only have a few hours to spare. Another bonus: Every student gets the same brand of markers, folders and so on—thereby leveling the playing field.

2. Work with a Wholesaler

How It Works: A growing number of companies will partner with schools to provide turnkey school supply kits, customized by grade. The PTA takes on the role of hiring and managing the third-party vendor, seeking teacher input and promoting the service to families. The completed kits are shipped to student homes—or, better yet, directly to the school so teachers can set everything up before the first day of class.

How It’s Funded: Parents order their supply kits online from the company (or opt out, if they prefer). Often, your PTA can receive a portion of the proceeds from each box sold.

Why PTAs Like It: “Parents love the ease of school supply shopping in just a few clicks. Long gone are the days of hitting up multiple stores to find specific items,” says Jennifer Finnegan, who manages the school supply program on behalf of Haycock Elementary PTA in Falls Church, Va. “The Haycock PTA is happy to provide this convenience, and it’s an easy win for the entire school community. ”

3. Funnel Funds to Teachers

How It Works: Classroom teachers know what they need to support their lessons plans, and they often have brand preferences, too. That’s why some PTAs choose to hold an annual classroom supply fundraising campaign. Then, teachers get to do all the shopping.

How It’s Funded: Families pay into a fund dedicated to school supplies. Some PTAs suggest a per-student contribution, while others follow a pay-what-you-can model. Either way, your PTA may choose to subsidize the fund as needed. The money then gets divided among classroom and specialty teachers, who purchase exactly what’s needed for their students for the entire year.

Why PTAs Like It: This approach gives teachers ultimate control over their classroom supplies, while again saving families time and ensuring equity among students. Meanwhile, kids still get to pick out their highly personal items like backpacks, lunch boxes and water bottles.

4. Close the Gaps

How It Works: Whether or not you pursue one of the options above, your PTA can further help teachers by setting up a grant program to reimburse them for any out-of-pocket expenses, up to a maximum amount (typically $100 to $250) per school year.

How It’s Funded: Your PTA may include this reimbursement program as a line item in your annual budget. Be sure to stipulate which kinds of purchases are eligible (defer to your PTA bylaws and guidelines) as well as the process for submitting receipts.

Why PTAs Like It: There is no question that too many teachers spend too much of their own money on snacks, crafts and other classroom supplies. PTAs can help teachers pay for qualified educational expenses when school budgets and supply lists don’t quite cover it.

Sourcing school supplies is just one more way your PTA can support teachers, parents and students—and help your entire community get off to a strong start each fall.

Here’s to another fantastic school year!

Lysol is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA. This article contains sponsored content from third parties.National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe From COVID at School

Children everywhere are heading back to school and in-person learning. It’s important to keep in mind that many communities continue to be affected by the COVID pandemic.

As of August 22, the risk that COVID poses—based on how many people are getting infected and need hospital care—is medium to high in more than 75% of communities nationwide.

Here are 5 ways to keep your child safe from COVID as they head back to school.

1. Get your child vaccinated as soon as possible

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

Since vaccines became available, people of all ages—including children—who are up to date with their COVID vaccines have been less likely than unvaccinated people to get very sick from COVID.

Everyone 6 months or older should get vaccinated. Find COVID vaccines near you at vaccines.gov.

2. Keep your child home when they’re sick

If your child has COVID or COVID-like symptoms, they should stay home from school to reduce their chances of spreading the virus to others.

If your child tests positive for COVID, follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on when and how long to isolate.

3. Test to prevent spreading COVID to others

You should test your child for COVID immediately if they have symptoms.

If your child was exposed to someone with COVID and doesn’t have symptoms, wait at least 5 days to test them. You may get an incorrect result if you test them too soon after exposure.

If your child tests positive, that means they’re infected with COVID. They should isolate, and you should tell everyone they’ve recently had close contact with, to avoid spreading the virus to others.

4. Wear a mask

Regardless of whether your child is vaccinated, they should wear a mask around others at school when the risk that COVID poses to your community is high.

If your child has been exposed to COVID, they should wear a mask around others at school for 10 days following exposure.

Don’t send your child to school if they have COVID. But if they do go to school with COVID-like symptoms or develop symptoms while at school, they should wear a mask around others.

5. Encourage your child to wash their hands often

Handwashing removes germs from one’s hands. It helps prevent getting infections and spreading infectious diseases to others.  

Encourage your child to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Handwashing is especially important:

  • After you blow your nose, cough, or sneeze
  • Before and after you eat
  • After you use the restroom
  • After recess or playtime with others

If your child doesn’t have soap and water, they can use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Children 5 and younger should only use hand sanitizer with adult supervision.

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.

Add ‘Get My Child Vaccinated Against COVID’ to Your Summer Plans

Great news: Our younger kids can now get vaccinated against COVID!

After a thorough review of the safety and effectiveness data from the clinical trials, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized COVID vaccines for children ages 6 months through 4 years. That means that everyone as young as 6 months in the United States can now get the protection of a COVID vaccine.

Parents and guardians have been eagerly awaiting this news. Since the pandemic began, over 130,000 children under age 18 have been hospitalized and nearly 1,500 have died. This year, kids under 5 years old have been more likely than older kids to be hospitalized with COVID.

Also, as many as 1 in 4 children who get COVID experience long COVID, in which they have new or lingering symptoms that last for weeks or months after infection.

Many kids are also getting multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but serious illness caused by COVID that involves painful swelling in different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, and brain. Over 8,500 children with COVID have also had MIS-C; 69 of those children have died.

There’s no way to predict how COVID will affect your child if they get it. They might be one of the lucky ones and just have the sniffles, but the risk for more severe illness is very real. Even perfectly healthy children can get very sick from COVID. One study found that almost half of children ages 0–17 who’ve been hospitalized with COVID had no other health issues. That proportion was even higher among children under 5, according to another study

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

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

There are two different vaccines available for children. The number of doses your child needs depends on their age and which vaccine they get. See the table below for details.

If your child is male and age 12 or older, they may benefit from waiting longer between the 1st and 2nd vaccine doses. Talk to your health care or vaccine provider. 

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

Where to find COVID vaccines for children

COVID vaccines for kids are available at pediatricians’ and other doctors’ offices, community health centers, rural health clinics, children’s hospitals, public health clinics, local pharmacies, and other community-based organizations.

To find free COVID vaccines for your child, talk to your child’s pediatrician or your family doctor. You can also find vaccines for children near you at vaccines.gov.

How PTA Leaders are Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth

Across the nation, states are seeing a dramatic rise in anti-LGBTQ sentiment, and particularly anti-transgender legislation. LGBTQ+ youth need PTAs to help protect their rights and stand up to bigotry. As we celebrate PRIDE month, here are stories of PTA leaders who are using their influence to support and celebrate LGBTQ+ youth.  

Celebration & Allyship in Round Rock, Texas 

As students at Canyon Vista Middle School returned to school following the COVID-19 school closures, teachers noticed an increase in acts of bias including the use of slurs against LGBTQ+ students. To address this increasingly hostile environment and to help LGBTQ+ students feel supported, the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club set out to host their first annual pride parade in 2021. PTA president Aidan Larson got involved, partnering with teachers and GSA sponsors, including Paige Crain, to create safer spaces for LGBTQ+ students in their school.  

Their activism wasn’t free of pushback. Historically, the environment had been hostile, with educators opposing the use of rainbow safe space stickers in their school. Paige and the other sponsors didn’t let that stop them. With the PTA working hand in hand with Paige and the GSA, they marched forward with their plans to host the celebration. 

The 2021 Pride parade was a success, engaging folks from across the school district and a variety of exhibitors. The team had recruited a variety of partners including the Texas Freedom Network, Out Youth, and a local church who came to distribute pride flags. While families from around the district showed up, there was not universal support. 

To ensure the 2022 Pride parade could take place without issue, the PTA again partnered with the GSA. Aidan also met with the school principal to show support for the GSA’s ideas for Pride week.  

When a neighboring middle school PTA promoted Canyon Vista’s Pride parade, not only did executive board members voice their opposition, several resigned due to their discomfort. The PTA president stood her ground, understanding the importance of supporting LGBTQ+ youth. She even managed to find a silver lining to the situation. “It was a lot of pushback,” she shared, “but I think the important part is [that] it made room for people to see that this is what PTA is, and finally, maybe a place that we can be a part of — not a high school girls club.” 

Listening to LGBTQ+ Youth in Lynbrook, New York 

So often students are talked at, by parents, teachers, and coaches, and we forget how important it is for us to take time to listen. Ivy Reilly serves on the Lynbrook High School PTA and received a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) grant from National PTA’s Center for Family Engagement in 2022. She also worked to ensure LGBTQ+ youth thrive by offering them an opportunity to share challenges, barriers and concerns of being identified as part of the community. Ivy decided to focus on the LGBTQ+ community after noticing that many students transitioned during the COVID-19 quarantine. She wanted to make sure that LGBTQ+ students and transgender students in particular, were being supported by the PTA. 

Ivy coordinated with the school administration and the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) advisor to speak with GSA members. She approached the first conversation with a learning mindset. She knew she didn’t have all the answers and that she might not phrase everything correctly, but she didn’t let the desire for perfection stop her. Instead, she saw engaging students as a learning opportunity. “My job is to learn from you so I can help you,” she told them.  

Most of the conversations revolved around ordinary teen issues from extracurricular activities to homework, highlighting the commonalities LGBTQ+ students share with the wider student population. But occasionally more serious issues arose, including a child worrying about if their parent was embarrassed of them because of the way they look, and another student worried about their family sending them to conversion therapy. 

These conversations have motivated Ivy to work on getting LGBTQ+ resources added to the district’s website. She informed the principal about some of the needs that arose from these conversations. She’s also hoping to bring Challenge Day to the Lynbrook community to help build bridges of understanding at the high school. She shared that she remains dedicated to using the PTA platform to support LGBTQ+ youth. “Our goal is to take care of the kids,” she said. “Maybe we’ll get to the parents later, when they’re ready, but the kids need our support now.” 

What can you do? 

If these PTA leaders have inspired you to start advocating for LGBTQ+ youth, there are lots of things you can do to get started! Explore this map to find LGBTQ+ community centers near you, and consider partnering with them on programs, services or events. You can also connect with your school’s GSA. If your school doesn’t have one yet, help create one!  

For more ideas and inspiration, visit www.pta.org/LGBTQ for more resources, including an LGBTQ+ glossary and our podcast episode featuring leaders from the Human Rights Campaign.  

6 Tips for Keeping Children Safe From COVID This Summer

By We Can Do This, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 Public Education Campaign

We’re headed into summer, but we’re not out of the woods with COVID. Cases are going up all over the country, and COVID can make children very sick.

Since the pandemic began, over 100,000 children have been hospitalized with COVID and over 1,500 have died. Over 8,200 children with COVID have also had 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. And as many as 1 in 4 children who get COVID are experiencing long COVID, where they have new or lingering symptoms that last for weeks or months after infection.

Here are six tips to follow to keep children safe from COVID this summer.

1. Get vaccinated against COVID as soon as possible

Vaccination is the best thing children can do to protect themselves from the dangers of COVID.

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

Right now, everyone ages 5 and older can get vaccinated. Find COVID vaccines near you at vaccines.gov.

2. Stay up to date with COVID vaccines

To stay up to date with their COVID vaccines, children ages 5–17 need to get two initial vaccine doses at least 21 days apart, followed by a booster shot 5 months after their second dose. A booster shot is an extra dose that helps keep up your protection from the vaccines.

Children are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose and immediately after their booster.

3. Wear a mask

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

To maximize protection from highly contagious variants and prevent possibly spreading COVID to others, both vaccinated and unvaccinated children ages 2 and older should properly wear a well-fitting mask inside public places when the risk COVID poses to their community is high.

For everyone’s safety, CDC recommends that everyone ages 2 and older wear a mask on public transportation and while in airports and stations.

4. Avoid close contact, crowds, and poorly ventilated spaces

Because of how COVID spreads, children should try to avoid close contact with people who are or might be sick, including within their household, by staying at least 6 feet away.

Children who aren’t up to date with their COVID vaccines should stay at least 6 feet away from other people when inside public places and avoid crowded places and indoor spaces that don’t have fresh air from the outdoors—especially if they’re at higher risk of getting very sick with COVID.

5. Wash hands often

Handwashing removes germs from one’s hands. It helps prevent getting infections and spreading infectious diseases to others.   

Children should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place or after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing. If they don’t have soap and water, they can use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

6. Test to prevent spreading COVID to others

Getting tested is the only way to know for sure whether you’re infected with COVID and reduce your chances of spreading the virus to others.

If a child tests positive, that means they’re infected with COVID. They should isolate, and you should tell everyone they’ve recently had close contact with, to avoid spreading the virus to others.

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.