Jennifer speaks

We’re All In ‘Because They Are My Kids’

We participated in the National Coalition for Safe Schools Summit over the weekend and we were quickly reminded why we signed on to this cause.

Because these teachers care, and so does every other teacher across America. They can tell you in a single breath why.

“Because they are my kids.”

Perhaps we already know that at some level. But tragedy after tragedy has proven it. Just remember the brave teachers at Sandy Hook who stood between a gunman and their students – their kids – and died trying to protect them.

Mallorie Manosh, director of our LifeChanger of the Year educator recognition program, was at the summit in Birmingham. She explained why National Life proudly stepped up to be the founding partner of the coalition.

“School violence has plagued this nation for a generation,” she said to open the summit. “We all know that no longer are our thoughts and prayers enough. We need to do more. We all need to do more.

“At National Life, we believe we need to more, as well. As vital as school employees are to this cause, everyone needs to be at the table. That means students need to be at the table. Parents need to be at the table. School employees absolutely need to be at the table. Elected officials, business owners, community members all need to come together and have this dialogue.”

This is not a dialogue just about school shootings. It’s also an initiative to get at why there are shootings and bullying and threats to children’s physical, emotional and mental well-being.

We learned from the teachers that they welcome us to the dialogue about what to do to end the violence that plagues our schools in all its forms. They just don’t really know how to ask because they’re so busy caring for our kids.

Because we’re active in America’s schools, especially through LifeChanger of the Year, we know teachers. That’s how we got to know Brian Copes, last year’s LifeChanger of the Year grand prize winner and a teacher near Birmingham.

“When Brian Copes came to us with the idea that has become the National Coalition for Safe Schools, we were all in,” said CEO Mehran Assadi.

And that was a message we shared with these teachers as they set out to tackle this pressing national issue. Just as you sometimes don’t know how or who to ask, neither do many business leaders.

The concept behind the coalition that organizers explained to us months ago was all we needed to know. “The idea was to reimagine what a safe school looks like,” Mallorie said.

We’ve learned so much from Brian and his fellow organizers: Melissa Morris, a teacher in New York City, and Mark Vondracek, a teacher in Evanston, Ill., and Joe Fatheree, a teacher in Effingham, Ill.

We learned what’s important to all  teachers. The issues of school violence for them are about much more than school shootings. “I’ve been trained how to barricade ourselves in our room in order to defend,” Brian said. “It’s only very rarely that we get to focus on the root problem. As teachers, we can do something. We need to do something.”

As business leaders, we can and do, too.

“I am with you, along with our 1,200 employees, 25,000 financial professionals and the thousands of educators we have recognized over the years at LifeChanger of the year,” Mehran said. “I look forward to hearing your recommendations and I’m eager to help you continue the work that you have begun this weekend, a beginning that can have a powerful ripple effect across the country.”

So join this cause. The National Coalition for Safe Schools has launched with a focus on how to address the social and emotional needs of schoolchildren. The goal is to stop bullying, to treat mental illness with compassion, and to help children grow into the citizens of tomorrow.

How can you help? Join the coalition. You don’t need to wait to be asked.

And you can also take the pledge, as did every teacher at the summit: “My name is Ross Sneyd and I am committed to keeping schools safe.”

We are all in this together.

Teacher leaders spent the weekend immersed in all of the ways to make schools safe.