Program aims to reduce school violence

Published 7:38 pm Friday, September 20, 2019

A non-profit seeking to protect children from gun violence at school recently released a PSA video that’s both heart-wrenching and shocking.

It starts with school-age children talking about the necessary supplies they got to start a new year — backback, folders, the usual stuff. But it quickly moves to scenes of children using everyday items to escape a mass shooter or fight back against an assailant.

A skateboard is used to break a window so a classroom of students can escape. A scarf is used to tie doors together to keep a shooter out; a pair of scissors is put into action as a means of protecting a child. In the final frame, a new cellphone is used to send a final “I love you mom” message before a shooter enters a bathroom.

The non-profit that released the PSA, Sandy Hook Promise, was founded in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Twenty first-graders and six educators were killed at the school.

The organization is hoping to use the viral video to spread awareness of its mission. A big part of its mission is to educate the public on the warning signs that often accompany an act of violence.

The “Know the Signs” programs teach youth and adults how to help prevent school violence, including shootings. The programs are designed to be used in a classroom and include lesson plans and activities.

Sandy Hook Promise believes every act of violence is preventable.

According to the organization, in 4-out-of-5 school shootings, the attacker had told someone of the plans ahead of time. It says social media posts are a primary source of signs, signals and threats from youth, followed by conversations between students.

Sandy Hook Promise is encouraging students and adults to not only look for the signs of violence, but act on them by reporting the information to an adult. One of the biggest components of the program is “Say Something,” which is exactly what is sounds like.

The program will not stop every act of violence in schools, but it can help reduce them. Hopefully, schools here in Southwest Mississippi will adopt this program — or one like it — in an effort to stop violence.

Below are some tips for parents from Sandy Hook Promise — the organization was co-founded by parents of those killed at the school.

• Make “Say Something” part of your family culture. Make an intentional effort to ask questions about each other’s day and include questions about each other’s experiences online.

• Talk to your child about warning signs, signals and threats. Share what warning signs, signals and threats might look like as well as experiences you have had and ask your child to do the same.

• Model best practices. Parents are important role models. Think about your own habits and make sure to display good digital citizenship.

• Be observant and keep an eye on your child’s communication. Talk to your child and learn to recognize signs in your own child’s expressions and what issues they may be communicating.

• Build your digital literacy skills. Become familiar with features on popular social media sites that allow you to report threatening or worrisome behavior. Learn about steps you can take with your child to get help. Ask your child to share what they know with you.

• Share strategies with your child to ensure they “Say Something ” and take immediate action.

• Discuss the difference between saying something and telling on someone. Explain that telling on someone is purposely trying to get someone in trouble but saying something is getting someone help. Share your story. Tell your child a story about a time that you took action and it made a difference. What happened? How did you feel afterwards?

• Be there for your child. Remind your child that you are always there for them if they need someone to talk to. Help your child identify other trusted adults in school, the community and church and plan to take immediate action. Let your child know that if they come to you with a concern, you will take the concern seriously. Assure them you will act immediately to get help.

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