It has been a decade since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 young children and six adults lost their lives. Unfortunately, there have been numerous school shootings since then. According to Education Week, there have been 152 shootings resulting in injuries or deaths on K-12 school property since 2018. While these numbers may be disheartening, Nicole Hockley, co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise, emphasized that progress has been made during a SXSW EDU panel on March 9.
Hockley, who lost her son Dylan in the Sandy Hook shooting, stated that many lives have been saved because educators, parents, and students are now more aware of at-risk behaviors and have tools to intervene. She firmly believes that school shootings can be prevented. Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization founded by Hockley and other parents from Sandy Hook, actively promotes community-based prevention efforts. One of their programs, the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System, allows students, staff, and parents to submit tips about potential violence through a mobile app, website, or hotline.
Hockley expressed her desire for all children to have trusted adults in their lives to whom they can express their concerns. She believes that if such trusted adults exist, students will feel more comfortable sharing information, which ultimately contributes to a safer environment. A study conducted by the University of Michigan on Sandy Hook Promise’s program revealed that schools implementing it saw positive outcomes. Students were more willing to report threats, exhibited better attitudes towards school, experienced fewer instances of aggression, and had stronger relationships with their teachers.
North Carolina has been utilizing Sandy Hook Promise’s Say Something Anonymous Reporting System since 2019, and the state has received over 20,000 tips. Hockley shared that five planned school shooting attacks have been prevented in North Carolina due to the program. Furthermore, the state has implemented behavioral threat assessment training, developed a comprehensive safety plan, and established a parent-community engagement group. Karen Fairley, executive director of the Center for Safer Schools in the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, recommended that other leaders looking to implement similar programs assemble a multidisciplinary team consisting of teachers, students, parents, law enforcement, and legislators. Additionally, she emphasized the importance of constant communication with all stakeholders, particularly students, parents, and teachers.