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ACPS Partner & Volunteer Highlight: Parents for Safe Alexandria Schools

ACPS Partner & Volunteer Highlight: Parents for Safe Alexandria Schools
The safety of all students and staff is of the utmost importance at Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS). With Parents for Safe Alexandria Schools (PSAS) among our community partners, the school division shares information on gun violence prevention with a focus on safe practices.
Formed in 2018 by four mothers from four ACPS schools, PSAS came together as ACPS started implementing the active threat ALICE training program after the Parkland, Fl., high school shooting. PSAS observed and reviewed the ALICE program and suggested additional resources and information to support all age levels, staff and families. The parent advocacy group also addressed the need for the community’s continued focus on gun violence prevention.
After the Alexandria City School Board passed a Resolution Against Gun Violence at its June 2, 2022, meeting, PSAS co-founder Catherine Estes called the action “significant” because it demonstrates leadership to our children and greater community while also sparking necessary conversation.
Since its inception, the PSAS partnership with ACPS has helped put the focus on gun safety. The organization co-sponsored the first ACPS Safety Forum with the Alexandria PTA Council (PTAC) and school division in October 2019. It has also coordinated Be SMART gun safety presentations in ACPS schools and in the community. Estes said, “Keeping children safe from gun violence is an adult responsibility.” But she added that while Be SMART is a gun safety education program geared toward adults, it includes useful resources that schools and families can utilize in communicating gun violence prevention measures with children in age appropriate ways. Be SMART helps normalize conversations about gun safety and how to take responsible actions that can prevent child gun deaths and injuries.
The Be SMART framework for gun safety provided to families includes the following:
  • Securing all guns in the home and in vehicles.
  • Modeling responsible behavior around guns.
  • Asking about the presence of unsecured guns in friends’ homes.
  • Recognizing the role of guns in suicide.
  • Telling your peers to Be SMART.
Putting a stop to gun violence is a multi-dimensional effort. PSAS says safe storage is part of it, noting the City of Alexandria provides gun locks and medication lock boxes as part of suicide prevention efforts. Estes also praises the benefits of ACPS Student Support Teams made up of psychologists, counselors and social workers who address issues such as social inclusion. She believes ACPS incorporating social, emotional and academic learning (SEAL) lessons into the curriculum has brought important mental health concepts and activities to students in need.
PSAS further encourages families to check out the Sandy Hook Promise’s Know the Signs program as it can help recognize a potential threat, especially on social media. Passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — the first major gun safety legislation to be enacted by Congress in nearly three decades — expands access to mental health services and addresses the trauma of gun violence, providing increased community and school-based health services for children and families.
Looking forward, PSAS seeks to continue a strong collaboration with ACPS and PTAC on gun violence prevention planning and programming, including sharing information through ongoing communications and outreach on ALICE programming and Be SMART to ensure ACPS families have the resources they need on this critical topic.
  • 2022-23
  • Partner & Volunteer Highlight