Add Gun Violence Prevention To Back-to-School Checklist
Sandy Hook Promise has developed several no-cost solutions to preventing violence on your campus
- By Nicole Hockley
- August 01, 2018
Notebooks? Check. Pens?
Check. Action plan for your
child to avoid a school
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.
SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING
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.
START WITH HELLO
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.
SAFETY ASSESSMENT AND INTERVENTION
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
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
To learn more about Sandy Hook Promise its
proven programs, please visit www.SandyHook-
This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of CSLS.