We are living in tumultuous times. Witnessing the death of George Floyd has horrified and galvanized the world. With one voice we are saying, “Enough!” This is the moment to work together for equity and justice. It’s time to make sure that everyone, everywhere can be safe just getting through the day. This is the purpose of my life’s work, the BE SAFE Program, and my personal commitment.
No matter how old our children are, each story we hear on the news stirs the same fear in parents: What would happen to my child in a police encounter? My son Tom has autism. The “invisibility” of autism adds to his risk. Your child may have autism or another disability that makes you worry. It’s no secret that race, where you live, not speaking English and similar factors make a police encounter more likely and increase the danger when one happens. This is unacceptable.
The obvious starting point is training the police about autism and other disabilities. Since 1994, I’ve led teams to train thousands of officers, with very positive results. I discovered, however, that while training the police is absolutely necessary, it isn’t enough.
We also need to prepare our children in advance for different kinds of police encounters. Our family members need to be familiar with police procedures and instructions, not expected to suddenly figure it out when they need help, or during an emergency. Just “telling” our children what to do isn’t effective. When I couldn’t find any good teaching materials, I decided to create them.
That is how BE SAFE The Movie came to be. A diverse team of young adults with disabilities from Joey Travolta’s Inclusion Films star in front of the camera and behind the scenes. The actors and real police officers model exactly what to do in everyday situations. BE SAFE the Movie has captions for the hearing impaired and Spanish subtitles.
As we were making BE SAFE in 2013, Ethan Saylor, a young man with Down Syndrome, was killed in a tragic encounter with off-duty police officers. Ethan and his mother Patti Saylor inspired us to expand BE SAFE to reach learners of all abilities and language levels. We created lessons to go along with the movie scenes so that everyone can benefit. The lessons are also available in Spanish, to reach more families who need this critical information.
Video modeling is a powerful, proven teaching tool. Watching BE SAFE has made a remarkable positive difference for many youth and adults, including many who subsequently had an actual police encounter! Preliminary results of a study from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that BE SAFE effectively prepared participants for police encounters.
All of this brings us to today. Between the urgent call to action of the Black Lives Matter movement and the COVID-19 pandemic, the time is right to bring BE SAFE home! Starting July 10, 2020, our partner TeachTown will offer BE SAFE for home streaming. We hope that families across the country will be able to take advantage of the opportunity to prepare their children of all ages, with and without disabilities, to be safe as we work together to make the world a safer place. Please visit www.TeachTown.com for details.
With my best wishes to you and your family,
P.S. Please note that your local schools can also stream BE SAFE into classrooms via subscription and track student progress automatically! More details at TeachTown.
We’re also seeking corporate sponsors or foundations to help subsidize in-home subscriptions for families with financial need. Please get in touch if you can help.