When I learned about the awful news of the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 young children and six adult staff members were killed, I thought about the tragedy from the perspective of an educator, school leader and parent.

A few weeks ago, I heard Ian Hockley speak at NJSBA’s Special Education Symposium. Hockley’s son Dylan, a six-year-old special needs student, was one of the children killed at Sandy Hook that day. Ian Hockley has channeled his unspeakable grief into the formation of a foundation, Dylan’s Wings of Change, in his son’s memory. The foundation has created the “Wingman” program, which encourages students to go above and beyond for others, and to learn the value of empathy and understanding.

At our NJSBA program, Hockley spoke with unbelievable grace about his experiences and the purpose and promise of the Wingman program. I found myself thinking about the Sandy Hook school shootings and contemplating anew the heartbreak that he and the other parents live with every day. It was one of the most moving presentations I have ever experienced.

I am pleased to report that New Jersey’s school board members and school administrators will have an opportunity to hear Ian Hockley. Dylan’s Wings of Change at Workshop 2019 in October. I urge you to make time to hear his address in the Exhibit Floor theater.

This issue of School Leader has a special section on school security and student safety. Unfortunately, we live in a unique time in history when the incidence of emotional and mental disturbances, along with access to military-type weaponry, have caused horrible consequences for our nation. America has wept too many times over the senseless loss of our schoolchildren. As education professionals and as parents, we know that we can never rest easy when it comes to protecting our students and staff from the range of dangers they face.

In the fall of 2018, NJSBA released an update of our original 2014 School Security Task Force report, which garnered high praise and was widely distributed in several states. The update, complete with new recommendations and a review of developments in the field since 2014, is summarized in an article which begins on page 15. The special section offers other resources, including a review of the various types of security personnel that school districts can employ to help keep students safe.

NJSBA is committed to providing leading edge information and resources to boards of education on the topic of school safety. As education professionals and parents, we can do no less.