Sandy Hook Promise: School shootings don’t have to be inevitable

by Chelsea Sheasley, CSM Staff writer @csheasley from United States

148366Students at Palos South Middle School in Illinois mark Sandy Hook Promise's "Say Something Week" with a parade focused on preventing school shootings and violence.Palos School District 118/Sandy Hook Promise

May 27, 2022

Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden understand the terrible grief that follows a school shooting. They each lost a young son nearly a decade ago in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 

Their mission since then has been to prevent attacks and “choose love, belief, and hope instead of anger,” as they write in the vow central to the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation they co-founded in 2013. They focus on turning tragedy into transformation through conversations and action; the foundation offers free school programming to decrease bullying and train students how to report potential threats. 

Tuesday’s attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 children and two teachers, underscored for them the importance of these initiatives, which have thwarted at least nine school shootings and nearly 300 suicides, according to the organization. Its work is grounded in a firm stance that such attacks are not inevitable – nor should they be accepted as a normal part of life in America. At a moment when efforts to stop mass shootings in schools can seem futile, the successes of the Sandy Hook Promise suggest that consistent efforts can prevent attacks and bring some restoration to lives devastated by violence. 

“There have been so many instances of prevention,” said Ms. Hockley, CEO of Sandy Hook Promise, during a press conference on May 26. “If you fall into that apathy, that sense of hopelessness, then you’re not going to take any action, and yet we need everyone to be leaning into the action.”   

Mitigating school violence

The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership among developed nations, and the highest amount of gun deaths. 2021 set a record for the most school shootings since 1970, with 249 incidents, including active shooters and times when a gun was drawn but no shots were fired, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database

Sandy Hook Promise formed only a month after 20 students and six teachers lost their lives at the Connecticut school in a day tragically similar to the events of Uvalde. A 20-year-old gunman killed his mother at home and then went on a rampage at the school. The foundation offers two signature programs, “Start With Hello“ for K-12 students and “Say Something“ for grades six and up. The programs are based on school violence prevention research showing that most school shooters were bullied and left warning signs before committing atrocities. 

“The Sandy Hook programming comes from a place of compassion and empathy as they try to find ways to mitigate school violence,” says Kjersti VanSlyke-Briggs, a professor of secondary education at SUNY-Oneonta and co-editor of “A Relentless Threat: Scholars Respond to Teens on Weaponized School Violence,” which includes a chapter about Sandy Hook Promise.

148367Students from East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa, Arizona, circle around a sign of the Sandy Hook Promise's "Say Something" logo. The program trains students how to report worrisome behavior.Sandy Hook Promise

“Start With Hello” has reached 8 million students so far and helps kids start conversations with their peers and recognize signs of social isolation. 

Page created on 5/29/2022 2:01:19 PM

Last edited 5/30/2022 7:00:51 PM