These days, school violence and school shootings are a major concern occupying the hearts and minds of us all. As the parent of two school-age kids, I don’t think there has been a morning since the Sandy Hook shooting where the thought hasn’t crossed my mind that this might be the last time I see one of my boys. This is an awful reality for me — or any parent — to live with.
Whatever you may think of how to solve the problem of school shootings in this country, I think we can all agree that the level of fear that so many of us harbor is truly unacceptable, and that something needs to be done so that school shootings do not remain such a routine part of our reality.
The good news is that there are many amazing people on all fronts working to make this happen. One such group is the Sandy Hook Promise, which was founded by family members who lost loved ones during the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in 2012. The goal of the organization is to stop school violence before it even starts. And their current venture aims to do just that.
It’s called the “Say Anything” Anonymous Reporting System, and it officially launched last week. It’s as simple as it sounds. If you are concerned that a member of your community might carry out a violent act of any kind, you are encouraged to anonymously report this through the system. Reporting can be done either via the “Say Anything” website, a hotline (1-844-5-SayNow), or through an app you can download to your mobile device.
There is a 24-hour crisis team who field all of these calls and messages, and send them to law enforcement teams and/or school administrations. Behaviors and concerns recommended to be reported include bullying, abuse, threats of school violence, self-harm, worrying levels of depression and suicidal ideation, reckless behavior, weapons possession or discussion, social withdrawal, theft, or substance abuse.
According to Education Week, any school district can opt-in to the program for free. The PepsiCo Foundation is sponsoring the first phase of the program’s rollout, funding states that are most “at-risk” for school shooting violence. These states include California, Florida, Texas, and New York.
This all sounds like a really good idea to me, and it’s not just theoretical: There is proof that programs like this actually work quite well. The reason why is that in almost all school shootings, there were signs of problems to come that were tragically missed.
“Federal reviews of mass shooting incidents have found that a majority of shooters ‘leak’ their intentions beforehand, telling at least one friend or family member,” explains Education Week.
Several states and communities have already set up their own anonymous reporting systems, as a matter of fact. The most famous one was set up in Colorado after the Columbine shooting in 1999. Safe2Tell, Colorado’s anonymous reporting system, has actually been credited with preventing more than one school shooting, as well as other instances of school violence and youth suicides, which is definitely good news.
In a powerful PSA coinciding with the launch of “Say Anything,” Sandy Hook Promise presented a chilling video about school shootings, and how important it is that we all learn the signs, pay attention, and say something if we have any concerns.
“Most people think that, you know, a school shooting could never happen here,” a teenage boy says, in an intense, close-up shot. “But those same people are the ones who saw all of the signs and never said anything.”
Soon after, the camera pans out and you see that this same boy is sitting on his bed, loading an AR-15 rifle.
“I’m sure tomorrow, someone will wish they had said something,” he says, as he continues to load his gun.
The video was definitely disturbing, and while most of us don’t really want to think about these sorts of things, these days, we don’t have much choice in the matter. We need action, and we need it now.
Solving the school violence issues in our country is definitely complicated and multi-layered, but it lifts my spirit to see that so many concerned parents, educators, and ordinary citizens are doing everything in their power to stop the next school shooting. It seems that prevention, awareness, and diligence is a key factor here, and the “Say Anything” Anonymous Reporting System is definitely a step in the right direction.