Tragedy to Transformation: Preventing School Violence with Proven Programs - Plenary Presentation, NIJ Virtual Conference on School Safety
In the weeks following the murder of her son, Dylan, in his first-grade classroom, Nicole Hockley co-founded Sandy Hook Promise with a mission to end school shootings. The research-informed Know The Signs programs she helped develop and launch have since taught more than 12 million people how to prevent violence and self-harm. Through these no-cost programs, Sandy Hook Promise has averted multiple school shooting plots, teen suicides, and countless other acts of violence.
The presentation was from the National Institute of Justice hosted the Virtual Conference on School Safety: Bridging Research to Practice to Safeguard Our Schools.
>> Good morning.
My name is Phelan Wyrick.
I'm the Vision Director for the Research and Evaluation Division at the National Institute of Justice.
Welcome to the second day of our Virtual School Safety Conference.
I am happy to welcome all of you today, and I hope that many of you were able to participate in our activities yesterday.
This is NIJ's first virtual conference of this size, and we're thrilled to be able bring it to you.
We were, of course, very happy to see how the sessions went yesterday, and in spite of some severe weather in various parts of the country, we've had participation that we feel very happy about, and we've been very grateful for the persistence that people had as they, in some cases, overcame technical difficulties that they were experiencing in their locations.
But the conference has been going very well so far, so we're thrilled to move into day two and day three tomorrow.
This session will be focused on a presentation on Sandy Hook Promise.
Before we begin that presentation, I'd like to take a few more moments to talk to you about some of the work that we've done out of the National Institute of Justice and the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative.
This conference is really brought to you by that initiative in a large degree because the work that you're hearing, the research that we're featuring in these presentations over these 3 days are for the most part funded through that initiative, and you may have heard my colleagues, Dr. Mary Carlton and Dr. Jennifer Scherer, our acting director at National Institute of Justice, speak about this initiative yesterday.
I want to say a little more about it, and I want to talk about some of the features of the initiative that maybe don't get recognized as much when you're hearing some of these presentations where we're talking about the projects themselves and the findings of the studies.
There are a number of ways in which the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative is different and a number of ways in which it's similar to work that NIJ does all the time, so many of you know that NIJ, National Institute of Justice, is the research and evaluation arm of the US Department of Justice, so we cover a wide range of topics, really anything that you might encounter working with state or local criminal justice, juvenile justice or crime-victims services and their partners, so NIJ is very familiar doing work on things that are similar to the work we do under school safety.
For example, we deal with sensitive topics.
We deal with vulnerable populations, and we deal with a very busy practitioner population who has many priorities and competing challenges and is often working in a resource-poor environment.
That is, there's not a lot of resources in their practitioner environment to support research activities, so those are challenges that we face all the time.
And they certainly do apply to the work that we do and support around school safety.
With all of the research that NIJ does, we emphasize a high level of scientific rigor.
That is, we want to perform the best and most appropriate research to address the important research questions of the day, and in addition to this scientific rigor, we also need to balance because, of course, our primary purpose is to use this research to advance real-world goals, to have a real-world impact and improve the outcomes of policy and practice across the country.
And so in order to do this, in order to be able to have both a high level of scientific rigor that provides us with a greater level of confidence in the results that we achieve and to be able to have that real-world impact, the partnerships that are forged through these research projects are just essential, so that applies again to these Comprehensive School Safety Initiative research projects as well as all the other work we do on any number of topics from policing to corrections and re-entry to, you know, work we do to determine the causes of crime on a wide range of issues such as, you know, human trafficking, terrorism, violence against women and so on and so forth.
Through all this work, in order to do this work well, it's essential that we focus on a few key issues.
One of them is the protection of the research participants and the confidentiality of the data we collect.
Obviously, when we're dealing with issues related to school safety, we're talking about students.
We're talking about school data, perhaps disciplinary data, law-enforcement data, mental-health information.
This is all sensitive information, and it has to be handled very carefully, and one of the things I'll point out about our Comprehensive School Safety Initiative is that it is no different than all of the other research that we do out of NIJ in the sense that we take great efforts to protect the participants and to do everything we can minimize or eliminate any potential harm that could come to participants as they engage in the research process, and when you hear these presenters talking about their work, they may mention the team that they work with.
That team is made up of a host of individuals, often who are working behind the scenes, to make sure that these protections are in place.
Now, this is consistent with federal law and regulations that require these protections.
It's not unique to NIJ.
I'm not making any claims to that degree but just underscoring because these issues are often sometimes, you know -- aren't seen.
They're happening behind the scenes.
But it's so important, and I really want to take this opportunity to thank all of these researchers, the research teams and all the practitioners they're working with who go to great lengths to make sure to protect these participants and protect the sensitive information that we're collecting through this research.
It's an essential piece of what we do.
Now, of course, all the research we fund out of NIJ is also funded with federal taxpayer dollars, so these are your dollars.
These are my dollars.
These are things that we all contribute to through our taxes, and for that reason, it's essential that we have a level of transparency in the work that we do, so we certainly want to be transparent and show our results as we're doing here, but we also have an obligation and a commitment at NIJ to make sure that we're archiving the information and the data that come from these studies.
Now, that's a whole process in and of itself that is critical for the scientific process.
It's critical for the public support of research, but it requires a great deal of work to make sure that that information is carefully and properly prepared to be put into an archive.
We use the National Criminal Justice Data archive, and that's happening with every single project that we support, and again, I just want to thank all the people who put their effort and work into making sure that the data are properly archived for these efforts.
Sometimes when people aren't familiar with this, they can be a little concerned.
They can express concern.
"Hey, you're going to take the findings of this research.
You're going to take the raw data of these research and throw it up online somewhere." Well, I want to be very clear and assure everybody that great effort is taken to make sure that the data is properly protected, and it's only available for the purposes of research and that there's -- We've taken every step we can to minimize the possibility that someone can track back to any personally identifiable information in the research.
So for all the people who go to great lengths to make sure to protect that information, that's what makes it possible for us to do this research, so thank you all so much for what you do.
Those are all ways in which CSSI is very similar to the other work that we do under NIJ, but there's an important way in which it's different, and I wanted to touch on that briefly.
CSSI came about in , and the level of funding that was appropriate to NIJ was $ million in that first year.
To put it into perspective, that $ million is more than the entire research budget of NIJ for all other topics, so as you talk about, think about everything we're doing in policing, everything we're doing to, you know, address corrections in this country, re-entry, you know, all the juvenile-justice work, all the, you know, the work focused on trying to understand the causes of crime, responses to crime-victim services.
All of that is less than $ million, so when we got the School Safety Initiative, we realized we really had to do some things a little different, and what I want to emphasize is the approach that we took because you'll hear in some of these presentations over these few days that some of these, particularly the program-evaluation studies, really focused on these partnerships between the schools and the researchers.
These partnerships were enhanced under the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative in part by the way that we structured the funding.
The Department of Justice sat down with people on Capitol Hill and the legislature and worked out a plan that would be unique to Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, and that plan allowed for individual grants to be made that supported both the research and the programmatic funding.
Typically under NIJ funding, we'll support the research or the elevation side, but we don't make funding available for the programmatic side to actually implement the strategies, but under CSSI, we did allow for programmatic funding, so what that allowed for -- We built in support for both the research and the program funds under individual awards, but the dollars were weighted towards the program side, and the administrative burden was weighted towards the researchers' side, so the researchers took on the key administrative tasks of running the federal grant and minimized those burdens for the schools.
The funding flowed in larger part to the schools to administer and carry out the actually school-safety projects.
But this whole arrangement allowed for a more equal footing between the researchers and practitioners, and it allowed the practitioners to have the resources and flexibility they need to carry out the school-safety efforts with minimal administrative burden, but it continued to prioritize the research, and I think this dynamic allowed for, you know, the source of -- It changed the dynamic for these projects, and I think it allowed for these partnerships to be more fully realized.
So again, keep your eye on how these partnerships undergo the research findings that you're hearing about during these presentations, and I think that we've been very proud to work with all of these participants as practitioners and researchers.
The current funding that we're getting to support school safety doesn't necessarily allow for the same kind of partnership, but we work closely with BJA and COPS Office, who administer the STOP Grant funding, and so you can still draw programmatic resources from those sources and research resources from NIJ through a separate award, and we continue to support these partnerships going forward.
Now I want to switch gears here and talk about -- and give you an opportunity to hear what you probably really came for, which about the Sandy Hook Promise, and I'm going to introduce now Nicole Hockley.
Nicole is the cofounder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, and she oversees over organizational strategy, marketing and development of the acclaimed No The Signs violence-prevention programs.
You've probably seen her work in the award-winning and provocative public-service announcement campaigns that Sandy Hook Promise produces, and so with that, I will turn it over to Nicole Hockley.
It's a great honor to have you here.
>> Thank you so much.
It is truly an hour to be with all of you today, and it's always humbling to be presenting at a school-safety conference, even a virtual one, that's filled with researchers and school-safety centers, academics and practitioners working in a multitude of school-safety and mental-health arenas.
In my 8 years leading Sandy Hook Promise, I've have the privilege to work with many experts like you, and I always learn something new to bring back to my organization and make it better, so my hope today is to do the same for you, to support your findings and maybe even give you some new insights or ideas by sharing my story, my work and my organization's research and experiences on how we keep kids safe in their communities, in their families and in their schools, to explain how we've taken our tragedy and worked to deliver transformative change to help students everywhere.
Now, in your work experiences, you may have seen a lot of social-media communications from different students.
Perhaps you saw a Snapchat once that said, "I'm bringing my dad's AR- to school and killing all of you." Or maybe you saw a text from a student to another student saying, "You're ugly and fat, and no one likes you.
Go kill yourself." Or maybe you saw a tweet that a student sent saying, "I finally got a gun," or a student in a news interview saying, "He tweeted about it last night.
He said he was bringing a gun to school, but we just blew it off like he was joking." Maybe you read a police report that said, "He had a fascination with past shootings, guns and was stockpiling for months." These are real messages given from and about past school shooters and individuals who completed suicide.
That last one about the fascination of shootings and stockpiling for months, that was from the police report about the shooter who killed first graders and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December th, .
Both of my sons were there that day.
My eldest son, Jake, was 8 years old, hiding in his third-grade classroom, listening to the gunshots over the school speaker system.
He's now , a junior in high school and healthy, but I constantly watch him for signs of PTSD.
This is my youngest son, Dylan, my beautiful baby boy with captivating eyes, an infectious giggle and warm, deep cuddles, my boy who loves the Moon, Disney movies, garlic bread and playing Nintendo Wii with his older brother, my little boy who is forever 6 years old after being shot five times in his first-grade classroom, dying instantly in the arms of his special-education assistant, who also died while trying to protect him.
And sadly, this never had to happen.
We never had to be that town, that school.
My son never had to die.
This shooting was preventable, but the signs and signals given off by the Sandy Hook shooter, like tens of thousands of other shooters and individuals who complete suicide, were either not recognized or understood or were ignored.
Imagine if one person had intervened.
Twenty children and six educators might be alive today.
What about Tuscon, Charleston, Aurora, Roseburg, Orlando, Sutherland Springs, Parkland, El Paso and Dayton? What about the thousands of other everyday shootings that don't make it to the news and all the lives lost through suicide every day? What if just one person had intervened each time? Think how many lives could be saved.
It's for this reason that I helped launched Sandy Hook Promise just 1 month after the murder of Dylan, along with several other families whose loved ones were also killed that horrific day.
When we first launched, I admit we didn't know what we were going to do.
We knew we wanted to stop school shootings.
We knew we wanted to help keep kids and families whole.
We knew we wanted to ensure that every day when a child goes to school that they come back home.
We started in the same way so many people do after a school shooting.
We focused on policy, but we failed right out of the gate.
Despite meeting more than half of the US Senate, despite every poll showing support from the majority of Americans, those who owned guns and those who didn't, despite a wave of positive media awareness following every move we made, on April th, , background checks lost in the Senate, achieving just votes in favor and opposed.
It was crushing.
I felt I'd failed.
I'd failed my son again, and at that point, I could've given up.
I almost wanted to, but I couldn't, and in some respects, sometimes you need to experience failure to motivate you to find the win.
We decided that for us to have failed on something as simple a background check that we were approaching the problem the wrong way, so we started looking for different solutions.
We started doing deeper research.
We implemented both qualitative and quantitative research with academic experts in the fields of violence and victimization.
We met with law enforcement, the FBI, educators, superintendents and school boards.
We researched history and lobbyists to better understand the motivators behind gun control and gun freedom and the majority of silent people between those movements.
We met with people: victims, survivors.
We did research groups with people about guns and mental health, and we learned a lot from mental-health experts and had meetings with and studied papers from social-movement experts.
The core learnings from all of this helped form our strategy to minimize pathway behaviors, prevent violence and create sustainable solutions in schools across the US.
Some of the lessons we learned include: one, schools are mostly safe from gun violence and mass shootings.
However, they're not immune to violence, suicide or threats.
Each year, there are hundreds of thousands of acts of youth violence and victimization.
This undermines school safety and a sense of well-being.
It creates stress and trauma and contributes to a disruption in learning.
Two, we learned that gun violence and victimization is caused by a lack of mental wellness, not mental illness.
Other than death by suicide, most gun and school violence comes from issues such as people that lack coping skills, anger management, lack empathy or have issues with social development and problem solving.
We also learned there's no such thing as a mass-shooter profile or someone who just snaps.
Mass shooters cannot be profiled.
There's no key predictability or demographics to identify them, and they don't snap.
They research, plan and prepare for days, weeks and months.
Usually a major event, like a rejection or excessive or continued bullying or isolation starts that final countdown towards their act, and during the event itself, the shooters are usually calm, cool and deliberate.
They're not acting in chaos.
This is because their violence is planned and purposeful.
Finally, we learned that it's during this planning phase that individuals will show warning signs and signals.
Most shooters plan for at least 6 months, which allows for leakage of these at-risk behaviors.
Studies show that percent of school shooters tell someone of their violent plans in advance, which percent telling more than one person.
Their peers and teachers are more likely to observe these behaviors than family members, which means that schools are an excellent environment for early identification and intervention, but sadly, historically the most common response to a potential shooter's behavior is to do nothing.
We see these signs and signals in suicide, as well.
Over two-thirds of gun violence, more than ,0 deaths, are completed suicide using a firearm, and suicide is currently the second leading cause of death for youth aged to and is still increasing.
But we know suicide is preventable.
In fact, up to percent of people who complete suicide tell someone their plans or give some other warning sign in advance.
This presents a huge opportunity to intervene and get help.
But why isn't that happening? Why aren't signs and signals being reported? Because people don't understand them.
They don't know how to recognize them because kids think if someone says it out loud or puts it on social media, then they're seeking attention, but they don't believe it's true.
Kids don't want to be labeled snitches or possibly get threatened themselves if they tell someone.
Some kids aren't comfortable calling 1 or talking to a trusted adult, and sometimes they don't even know who to tell, or they believe if they do tell, that nothing is going to be done.
And most sadly, I think, sometimes they just choose to ignore the signs or signals because they think someone else will say something.
This is the bystander effect, and sadly, those these warning signs and signals exist and are prevalent, we found that there was no national training program to teach how to recognize them and that schools were under resourced and overwhelmed facing challenges teaching and sustaining this by themselves.
All of these findings and lessons were combined and distilled into defining our path forward through Sandy Hook Promise.
We decided we were going to be the organization that prevented gun violence before it happened.
We launched in with a simple promise, to do all we can to protect kids from gun violence by encouraging and supporting solutions that create safer, healthier homes, schools and communities.
Our goal is to end school shootings.
To do this, we decided to focus on upstream violence prevention, not just imminent danger or hardening, but to utilize school-based educational programs to prevent potential violence days, weeks, months or even years before it might happen.
Our philosophy is that school violence is preventable and that active engagement of students and adults in creating an inclusive school climate is the root of positive, meaningful and lasting school change.
We decided to implement this strategy in two ways, through both policy and programs, programs to teach behavioral change and policy to support that change.
Quickly looking at policy first, we focus on state and federal policy in the areas of mental health and wellness, school safety and funding for evidence-based programs.
As examples, we helped passed the Mental Health Reform Act as part of the st Century Cures Act in , which as the last bill signed during President Obama's office.
We wrote and passed the bipartisan Stop School Violence Act of with President Trump, providing 5 million in grants to help our schools implement proven, evidence-based violence-prevention programs, and we're now working to pass legislation that we also wrote, the STANDUP Act, under President Biden, which will encourage states to expand access to evidence-based suicide-prevention training to all students in grades six through .
Now, while our primary focus is not on guns, we do advocate for common-sense gun-safety legislation, such as background checks and extreme-risk protection orders, which have been proven to prevent suicides, and with seeing a record amount of guns sold in the US, around million, and the most mass shootings since they were tracked in , at over 0, we know there's still work to do to ensure safe storage and responsible gun ownership.
But while our success in policy implementation is important, our main focus is on creating behavioral change, teaching students and the adults around them how to previous violence before it occurs.
Now, the easiest way to contextualize this behavior change is to think about seat belts or a designated driver.
Now, when I was a kid, seat belts weren't required, and deaths from car accidents continue to escalate, but now because of education on how seat belts save lives, along with policies and laws to enforce that behavior, we don't even think about putting a seat belt on anymore.
We just do it.
And we've taught our kids to do it.
It's the same with designated driver.
I remember being taught in high school that if someone was going to drink, you had to have a designated driver.
It was a simple educational program that changed the behavior of a generation, and that generation grew up to regularly practice having a designated driver, and they teach their kids the same.
That's long-term behavior change, and that's what we can do for school safety: teach kids to recognize warning signs and signals, to reach out and get help for others, to be upstanders and prevent violence, and they'll grow up and teach their kids to do the same.
Will school violence still occur? Yeah.
There's still people who don't wear seat belts.
There's still people who drink and drive.
But the numbers have reduced significantly.
We can do the same for school violence and school shootings.
To deliver this upstream violence prevention, intervening before someone picks up a weapon to hurt themselves or someone else, we need to consider the entire spectrum of violence and at-risk behaviors, from bullying and isolation at one end through anxiety and depression, self-harm, anger, dating violence, physical or substance abuse all the way up to the other end of suicide and homicide.
We can teach our kids how to intervene on all of these and make an impact, and that's exactly what we're here to do, is to make an impact.
In late , we started launching our signature Know the Signs programs, focused on getting kids these tools, the tools that they need to recognize social isolation and create an inclusive culture, how to recognize the signs of someone who needs help or may be a harm to themselves or someone else and to tell a trusted adult or to use our anonymous report system.
We even teach the adults what it means to be a trusted adult and what they need to do if they see something or if a student confides in them.
We teach students and adults how to recognize signs and prevent suicide.
We teach them how to be upstanders, and we teach kids how to use their own voice and agency in our student clubs, letting them lead the way to create the best school community for themselves.
We provide all of this whatever way a school or district needs.
We provide in-person and virtual live classroom assembly and individual training.
We have a robust suite of train-the-trainer resources, downloadable curriculum to self-lead and a multitude of support resources and activities, as well as access to a large additional SEL library.
We're a nonprofit.
We're not looking to make any money.
We're not beholden to shareholders.
Thanks to funding from our amazing donors and from federal grants, like the Stop School Violence Act, there's no cost to schools for our programs.
To date, more than million youth and adults have participated in one or more of these trainings from over ,0 schools from all states.
We also have almost 3,0 student clubs that we support.
These are the clubs that sustain the teachings and the actions from the programs year-long in the school.
But how do we know this works? Well, we constantly receive qualitative feedback from the schools and districts we work with across the country.
They're talking about the reduction they're seeing in bullying and isolation, the reduction in the number of threats, and we've also implemented several research students to quantitatively assess the impact of our programs.
In one recent study with Los Angeles schools when compared to control groups, participants in both our Say Something and Start With Hello programs demonstrated significantly more positive attitudes toward school, peer connections and a sense of empowerment.
They showed more positive relationships with trusted adults and a greater willingness to report warning signs of mental distress and threats.
We currently have multiple research studies in progress focused on our Say Something anonymous reporting system, but the tangible evidence we receive from the kids themselves proves that this approach works.
Since we launched in , we've already implemented the anonymous reporting system in over 5,0 schools with more than 2,0 confirmed mental-health interventions, approximately 0 saves, where clear evidence of imminent harm was present and averted, and almost acts of serious school violence prevention, which includes school shootings.
And these numbers exclude the interventions that come from our statewide partnership with Pennsylvania.
And if you exclude COVID this last school year, the numbers show that school shootings and violence is still increasing.
While we maintain that schools are still one of the safest places to be in the community, they're not immune.
Violence in schools overall has reached epidemic proportions, becoming more common and deadlier than ever before.
The ongoing trauma of that can't be ignored.
The trauma of shootings, suicides, bullying and other forms of violence and victimization in schools doesn't end with the news cycle, the funeral, the arrest or graduation.
The pain endures, leaving scars for life.
Youth who are bullied physically, verbally and online have an even higher risk of becoming victims themselves.
Students and educators who live through school shootings often face crippling anxiety and depression and higher rates of suicide.
Yet experts agree that we can stop this.
Experts agree that violence is preventable when we know the signs and get help before a tragedy happens.
We know that safe and healthy schools where children are free from violence is within our reach.
When we work in community with educators and law enforcement to implement proactive and upstream approaches to violence prevention.
When we provide students with practical but evidence-informed training on what warning signs to look for, when to speak up and how to get help, and when we combine all of this with sensible prevention policy, we truly have a holistic solution to make our schools safer.
The COVID- pandemic changed a lot.
Education was forced to move online.
People were out of work or began to work remotely, and we started to see changes in what kids were reporting to us.
Even during COVID, our crisis center in Miami has remained open 24/7, and we've trained nearly 0,0 students just so far this school year.
Now, due to the pandemic, there have been fewer school shootings this past year, which is good, but violence is still occurring every day at home and in communities, and sadly, we do believe that we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the long-term adverse consequences on the mental wellness of our kids and our adolescents.
Our crisis center has seen a percent increase in the number of life-safety tips, meaning at least one life is in imminent danger.
Suicide is now the number one reported tip we receive, with calls and texts from kids saying, "I feel like I'm never enough.
My family is having a hard time financially, and I just feel like a burden," or, "Since COVID happened, life at home has been really tough for me, and I've thought about suicide," and, "I need someone to talk to.
I don't have my school counselor anymore." Violence and gun violence is still a national public-health epidemic, and the warning signs for the future are clear.
When our children return to their classrooms, their lives will be at risk again.
We can't let this cycle continue.
All children should be safe at school.
Protecting kids and putting an end to school shootings are goals we can all agree on.
By setting aside political agendas and rhetoric, we can stand together and take decisive, comprehensible and sustainable action to prevent violence.
The solemn promise we made when we launched Sandy Hook Promise has guided everything we've done, and together, we're turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation, but it's only because of the support from and working with people like you that we're able to effectively train the next generation of upstanders, those who start with hello when they see someone being left out or isolated and say something to get help when they see someone who might be in crisis.
These kids, these upstanders are saving lives.
They're reducing bullying and depression and ultimately creating more empathetic, compassionate and inclusive schools and communities.
They're driving the culture change we need in this nation, creating a future in which no child has to experience the devastation of a school shooting.
We need to keep giving them the tools they need to lead this work, to help each other and to create the positive, safer future that they deserve, that we all deserve.
--> Erase at Thank you again for your time.
>> Thank you so much, Nicole.
Those comments are so helpful, and it's so inspirational to hear how you've been able to work on this issue and turn tragedy into progress for so many people in this country, and, you know, we -- I want to share with the full audience that there is a question and answer function if you'd like to submit any questions for Nicole.
We still have some time to do that.
I'm going to begin, Nicole, if you would, which a question of my own, which is -- I made note of one of the things that you shared that just really is resonating for me, and there was so much in there, but in particular, your point about focusing on the point about the lack of mental wellness versus mental illness.
Can you say a little bit more about that? Because it seemed to be a real theme in what you were describing.
I remember the stigma and the comments that were made after the Sandy Hook school shooting about the shooter.
People talked about all sorts of potential mental disorders, none of which had been diagnosed.
And also, when we look at other school shooters, it is very rarely a case of a diagnosed mental illness.
It is usually these coping skills, and we don't want to stigmatize people with true mental illnesses.
We're not saying that they will become school shooters.
I mean, depression and anxiety, suicidal ideation, that can be a true mental illness.
However, it's this lack of wellness, these coping skills, these anger-management skills, these abilities to have empathy or make connections that really drive a lot of the violence that we see, so it's really important to never stigmatize someone with a mental illness as being at risk of this kind of harm towards others.
It's really this lack of mental wellness that we need to create --> Erase at and foster more in our school environments.
>> And we have another question, as well.
And you've done a really good job, I think, and it's clear that your practiced at drawing the connection between the most serious events and the need for this, you know, upstream type of response.
We've seen that, you know, some of the work that we're doing under the heading of school safety can feel to some people like this sort of softer approach.
You know, we're talking about things like climate and, you know, all of these things.
Do you find that people have really begun to clearly see that connection and the need, or do you still find that you're having to put a lot of work into helping people connect those dots? >> That's a great question.
I think people are becoming more aware of it and understanding it more, but it's not what we've been taught, so it's about driving awareness and further education of that.
When you have a conversation with someone and talk about that it really begins right at the beginning, that it's not about snapping, that it's not about something that you can control in the moment, people understand that and get on board, but we still focus a lot of our work -- Not our work, but as a country, we still focus too much of our work on, what do we do when danger is imminent? What are we going to do in terms of, you know, bricks-and-mortar security and systems? And I'm not saying that those are unneeded, but I'm saying, we will need that less if we focus on the earlier indicators of violence and get help for those people --> Erase at before they ever reach that point of no return.
We have another question, and it is if you could share a little more information about how you're identifying these saves, as you put it? That is, the successes in preventing violence, it's something that's often very difficult to measure.
>> It is difficult to measure, and we're super careful not to use loose definitions for this, but when we have a save, our crisis counselors are very experienced in getting information from a tipster and triaging it, and each tip to receive a designation of life safety, for example, has to meet a certain amount of protocols, and for us to say that something is a verified save, we have to know that there was clear and present, imminent danger to at least one person.
So that's not to say that something might have happened the next week or the week after or it can be more vague.
We have to -- There's a certain set of protocols that we have to meet in order for us to say, "This is a clear and present danger.
We need to involve law enforcement or the school team in a different way," and that there is imminent risk of danger --> Erase at to at least one person.
>> Thank you.
Another question is coming back to the work you described about the research that Sandy Hook Promise did.
You talked about, you know, really trying to engage with people.
You said, you know, the gun freedoms people, the gun control people and so many people in between, and you drew on a wide range of knowledge and research in setting your direction for Sandy Hook Promise.
Can you say a little more about how that foundation work has helped you in being able to engage and build partnerships and support for your work across sort of different boundaries and such in the years since? >> Well, I think that research has really helped give a lot of credibility to our approach because when we first started the organization before we had the research and we were talking about wanting to focus on upstream violence prevention, there wasn't broad consumer awareness about this.
There was expert awareness, but none of this was out in the general public, and that body of research, all of that coming together with statistics, evidence, looking at police reports, it all comes together to really show, this isn't just our theory.
This isn't just a hypothesis.
This is proven by pulling all of these pieces of true research together to create our theory of change, which we're not proving out with our programs.
But in terms of establishing credibility for someone who might think, "Well, no, you know, you can't say that someone who suffered bullying earlier in life is necessarily going to escalate," and hopefully they never do, but it's about, what are those moments in a person's life that we can create intervention so it never gets to the next stage, and proving that negative is hard.
That is challenging at times, but we know that as we see the number of threats lower, as we see the number of bullying and isolation lower that we will see the parallel reduction in overall school violence and school shootings, so it's important to say, you know, "This isn't just what we think.
This is what we can prove historically through research and continuing as we move forward." >> Thank you.
So you've talked a little bit about the legislation that you're working on now and some of the programs you're working on now.
Is there anything you'd like to say about sort of what's next for Sandy Hook Promise? I mean, you're doing so much work, and you're engaged in so much, but it means that, you know, you've got this approach that is always kind of looking forward and how you can continue to develop the work you're doing.
What's next? >> What's next? More of the same.
We're going to continue to train more kids.
You know, we've trained million.
We have still have a lot more to go.
We're in ,0 schools.
There's a lot more schools to get to.
There's a lot of awareness to build and to continue to improve support services from our crisis center so that we can really encompass the entire K through environment, so we're just going to continue to improve the efficacy and fidelity of our programs, continue to meet schools where they are and deliver it however they need it, to continue to focus on racial justice and ensuring that everything we do is equitable for every school environment, as well, and continue to pass legislation.
You know, we have a great track record so far of nonpartisan legislation, so getting things passed, and we're going to continue to do that to help mandate violence=prevention programs, get funding for it to ensure that schools -- any barrier that a school feels that they have to implementing these programs, that we can overcome them because at the end of the day, we just want to help the schools and we just want to help the kids.
That is all we are about, and we're just going to keep doing that until, frankly, until we meet our vision of ending school shootings --> Erase at and put our organization out of business.
>> Thank you.
You know, we have another question related to something that I know that you've touched on and Sandy Hook Promise has worked on quite a bit, which is this issue of multidisciplinary teams.
>> And can you -- So the question is, can you discuss the role of multidisciplinary teams at the school level and how they function with your tip-line system, and how does it vary across places? What factors are critical to have in place for these multidisciplinary teams? >> Right. Well, I can give it at a high level right now, and for anyone who's interested in learning more, please reach us at [email protected], and we can go through detailed process of how we work with multidisciplinary teams and law enforcement teams because it is a rather lengthy answer.
However, it's always important to have a couple, three to five people ideally, depending on the size of the school community or the number of buildings involved, to train in, how are you going to help use the system? So that when we get a tip /7 that we know who to take this tip to, if it's a non-life-safety event, such as bullying or vaping, or how we're going to work with the school team and law enforcement in parallel through the system where everyone can talk in community on the software platform that we provide so that we can decide the best intervention for that child and that family in that community, but the multidisciplinary teams, they are responsible for everything from updating the data to ensure we have the right people to contact to taking our calls or texts or e-mails when a tip comes in and then dispositioning back on the system if they choose to how they're actually dealing with that tip so that they then have their full audit trail.
But we train every member of the multidisciplinary team.
We have account managers that provide /7 support and separate account managers who deal with sustainability support and then also our teams that focus on how we help law enforcement officials work all together because the best solution is when you have all three working together: the crisis counselor, the school team and law-enforcement team --> Erase at to ensure the whole well-being of the child and school.
>> Thank you so much, Nicole.
Let me just say on a personal level, I have a son who's now.
He was 6 at the time of the terrible tragedy.
I know people all across the country felt, and all across the world felt very, you know, in a very personal way, felt the pain of that day.
We can only imagine what you and so many of the people there and the families there have gone through, but it's so impressive and inspirational what you've been able to do and how you've been able to turn that tragedy into so much progress, so on behalf of everybody in the audience, I want to give my round of applause to you.
Thank you so much for being here with us today.
It was a great honor.
>> Thank you so much.
It was my honor to be here speaking with you.
--> Erase at Thank you.
Opinions or points of view expressed in these recordings represent those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Any commercial products and manufacturers discussed in these recordings are presented for informational purposes only and do not constitute product approval or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Justice.
- Tip Lines - Roundtable Discussion, NIJ Virtual Conference on School Safety
- Developing and Implementing Evidence-Based Practices in School Safety - Plenary Discussion, NIJ Virtual Conference on School Safety
- Optimizing Risk & Needs Assessments for State & Local Jurisdictions - NIJ Juvenile Justice Research