We decided to teach students how to recognize warning signs that a peer was in danger of harming themselves or others through our Know the Signs programs, and to report them to a trusted adult or through our Say Something Anonymous Reporting System. We’ve already received more than 60,000 tips since our reporting system launched two years ago, and more than a third of all tips received after the COVID-19 pandemic began have been designated as “life-safety” interventions.
The moment that sparked my passion
The loss of my son Daniel. While all three of my children — James, Natalie and Daniel — were exceptional when it came to looking out for other kids, Daniel took it to a whole new level. He had a very natural capacity for compassion and awareness of others. His teachers always commented about the fact that he was always the first to help other students, whether they were struggling with their emotions or having trouble putting on a jacket.The pain of losing him is almost insurmountable.
If I wasn’t able to get universal background checks passed on the federal level, I wanted to honor my little Daniel’s unique personality while also protecting other kids and their families from such a horrible tragedy. What better way to do this than to empower other children to recognize chronic social isolation and other warning signs that their peers were in trouble?
What I wish other people knew
We’re not about taking people’s guns away. Our focus is on building a positive connected culture into schools. What we are doing works. Here’s one of many real-life interventions we have made: We were recently notified of a student who reported feeling helpless and suicidal during quarantine. It turns out the student actually had a suicide plan in place and access to a weapon. We were able to reach out in time to get the student to the hospital for mental health treatment.
Sandy Hook Promise also partners with researchers from the University of Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center (MI-YVPC). In 2017, we conducted a pilot study together that concluded that our Know the Signs program had a significant positive impact in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the country. We now have funding from the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research to undertake a three-year follow-up study.
Every time we’re able to identify a kid exhibiting at-risk behavior and connect with them, we make our schools safer. Even more importantly, teaching kids to recognize signs of violence or self-harm in their peers or in themselves is also helping avert abuse, cyberbullying and suicide. These are life lessons that will ultimately breed more empathy and compassion.