Add Gun Violence Prevention To Back-to-School Checklist

Sandy Hook Promise has developed several no-cost solutions to preventing violence on your campus

Notebooks? Check. Pens? Check. Action plan for your child to avoid a school shooting?

With back-to-school upon us, we all know how important it is to ensure students are prepped with the essentials. However, with the rise of school shootings happening in cities and towns across the country, we must also prepare our kids with empathy, awareness, action plans, and the overall knowledge of what to do in the event they come across someone exhibiting at-risk behaviors—these actions can be life-saving.

In the first six months of 2018, the United States witnessed over 20 school shootings across the country, including the devastating mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. and Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas.

In each of these incidents, the shooter exhibited signs that were overlooked or misunderstood, such as social isolation, bullying, and making threats or sharing photos of weapons online. In Parkland, we heard students say that they weren’t surprised that the shooter carried out the attack due to his behavior. In Santa Fe, one student mentioned that with school shootings frequently happening across the country, she “felt like eventually it was going to happen here, too.”

It is imperative that we teach students how to be aware of those around them and to be on alert for any signs that something might be amiss. Students know their school community better than anyone, as they often see and hear things that adults might overlook—especially on social media.


At Sandy Hook Promise, we train students and adults through our “Say Something” program on how to properly identify, intervene, and get help for individuals exhibiting signs of violence before they hurt themselves or others. On average, 80 percent of school shooters tell someone about their violent plans prior to carrying out the act and 70 percent of people who complete suicide told someone about their plans or gave some type of warning or indication.

If a student comes in contact with a friend who says they feel sad and thinks they would be better off dead, that student needs to know they should tell trusted adult who will help them and the at-risk person. If a student comes across a schoolmate who is sharing photos of a gun or weapon on social media, they need to know that they can tell a trusted adult.

If a student sees something and wants to report a tip anonymously, Sandy Hook Promise created a solution called the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System (SSARS). This anonymous reporting system allows students to report a tip 24/7 via the app, website, or phone hotline. The SS-ARS platform is managed and maintained by a national digital leader in the school safety space and a 24/7 multi-lingual crisis center. Each tip is vetted, assessed, prioritized by threat level, and forwarded to the appropriate school officials and law enforcement. This is an alternative that will allow students to speak up without fear and get help for at-risk individuals.

Through the Say Something program and SS-ARS platform, there have been numerous shooting plots, suicides, and other acts of violence that have been averted thanks to countless brave students who stood up and said something.


We are in an age where youth are more desensitized to violence than ever and instilling empathy is imperative. Feelings of isolation are one of the first symptoms in the downward spiral towards acting out in violent or destructive ways. Our “Start with Hello” program teaches students that the simple act of saying hello to a peer whom they don’t know, or inviting them to sit with them at lunch or recess is critical to feelings of worth. This could help an individual to avoid feeling isolated and could change their lives for the better.

Schools that have implemented this program have reported a dramatic decrease in bullying, creation of an overall inclusive community where no one eats alone, and feeling from students that they have much more in common with peers they used to avoid than differences.


Students aren’t the only ones prepping for back-to-school. Following Parkland, there has been a great deal of conversation about arming teachers and school administrators throughout the country. However, there are better alternatives than placing a gun, or any weapon, in classrooms. Teachers are already juggling so much, including keeping students safe, and should not be tasked with this burden.

That is why we have programming available, such our “Safety Assessment & Intervention” program that trains teachers and school administrators on how to identify and treat an underlying issue in an at-risk student’s life that could lead to them acting out and/or potentially looking to hurt themselves or others.

Not all students who are struggling act out. There are many students who silently carry their woes and put on a façade that everything is okay, even though they might be committing self-harm, having suicidal thoughts, or planning acts of violence against others.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for American teenagers and the Center of Disease Control has seen a steady increase of suicide among teens, especially teenage girls. Our program “Signs of Suicide Prevention” trains teachers on how to spot warning signs of depression and youth suicide. Suicide is preventable, early detection can be a matter of life or death, and we want to make sure that students who need help are able to access it in a timely manner.

Gun violence, as well as other acts of violence and self-harm, are preventable when one knows the signs. As students, teachers, and parents prepare for another school year, Sandy Hook Promise wants to ensure that students have a safe environment to grow, learn, and thrive in. Schools should be safe havens and this is the mission of Sandy Hook Promise.

All of the programs offered through Sandy Hook Promise are available at no-cost to schools. For this upcoming school year, let’s create a safe environment in our schools by taking proactive measures and adding gun violence prevention to the top of our back-toschool checklist.

To learn more about Sandy Hook Promise its proven programs, please visit www.SandyHook-

This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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