About Safe Schools
Mark G. Phillips
Executive Director and Founder
My career changed on Valentine’s Day in 2018. That was the day of the Parkland, Florida school shooting. I am a lawyer, and lawyers do not often act impulsively, but as I watched those brave students on the news, I realized I needed to do something. I just didn’t know what. As a gun owner and Army veteran, I knew our approach was going to be different.
A group of us founded Safe Schools to stop school violence, especially school shootings. The first thing we learned was that it’s an incredibly complex issue and is intertwined with bullying and mental health and the social environment.
We focused on prevention — getting to the root cause of the problem. We developed innovative, school-based programs that targeted cyberbullying, teen mental health and school shootings. But who would run them?
That is when it struck us that it had to be the students. The violence was happening to them. It was their issue. They had to be the agents of change. They had to embrace the programs and they had to lead them. They can do that. If the Parkland, Florida students taught us nothing else, it’s that high school students can lead and make a difference.
Mark Phillips is a retired lawyer and trial consultant. He received his college and law degrees from the University of North Carolina and practiced in Boston for thirty years. His major clients included AT&T, Volkswagen and Eaton Corp. He founded Safe Schools New Hampshire in June 2018 and is the executive director. Formerly, he served in the U.S. Army and was Chair of the Board of the Boston Ballet School and Vice-Chair of the Boston Ballet Company. He is on the New Hampshire Suicide Prevention Council.
I am a college student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and have interned at Safe Schools for nearly three years. Early on, Mark asked me and a fellow intern to create a video on school safety. He said we could choose the specific issue and would have complete control in making the video. We chose school shootings and interviewed and filmed a dozen local high school students. We presented our video (“A Student Film”) to over two hundred people at the annual meeting of the New Hampshire School Counselors Association.
While a senior at Souhegan High School in Amherst, NH, I participated in a pioneering, student-run leadership program (Ethics Forum) that offered high school seniors unparalleled leadership opportunities. It was through my work in Ethics Forum that I connected with Safe Schools. Since then, Safe Schools has expanded its school safety initiatives and become a student leadership platform. That is why student leadership is at the core of Safe Schools: listening to student voices and developing strong leaders makes school communities safer. I am now a senior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and continue my work with Safe Schools. I spoke at our April 14, 2023 conference about “Resilience and Teamwork On The Way to a NCAA Rowing Championship.”