By Russell J. Sojourner, Ph.D
Yesterday (1-14-2013), exactly one month after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the parents of the children who lost their lives held a press conference to deliver a poem, “The Sandy Hook Promise,” and a plan to move forward. The parents also launched Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit dedicated to making our nation a better, safer place. The promise seeks to honor the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook, and to encourage and support common sense solutions to make our communities and country safe from similar acts of violence.
The Character Education Partnership pledges our support for the Sandy Hook Promise, and we continue to advocate for measures which contribute to positive school culture and climate—measures which will make our schools safer places—where the risk of violence is reduced, and where young people are better able to cope with violence when it does happen. To that end, at the request of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s staff, yesterday—the day the Sandy Hook Promise was announced—CEP delivered to the U.S. Department of Education evidence and possible policy language stating the importance of K-12 school climate on a variety of measures related to school safety, bullying and violence prevention.
It is our solemn hope (and belief) that some good can come of this horrible tragedy… that the critical need for positive school culture and climate through character education and the development of social emotional learning skills will once again be placed at the top of America’s education agenda. As educational leaders, role models and parents, we must ask ourselves the same questions asked by leaders and statesmen throughout history: “If not me, who? If now not now, when?” If not us, who will teach our children empathy, compassion, and kindness? If now isn’t the time to refocus on creating respectful, caring, and safe school environments, then when? These questions have never been more relevant; these questions have never been more important.