NJ students will soon be trained in preventing gun violence
An organization created after the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school massacre in 2012 will be training 100,000 students in New Jersey the warning signs of a potential act of violence.
Lauren Alfred said the nonprofit was founded in the days and weeks after the shootings where 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 first grade children and six adult staff members. Alfred said the organization is geared to teach children to help prevent that violence from happening. She said they believe that if police can be trained to look for warning signs, then so can everyone else.
The goal is to eventually teach all students, but Alfred said Sandy Hook Promise will first work with districts where gun violence, suicide and other issues have been a problem.
The program is slated to start after the holidays. Gov. Phil Murphy and the Department of Education have provided a three-year grant to fund the program.
The Start With Hello program focuses on combating social isolation. They teach students how to connect with one another and to reach out to students who are socially isolated or alone, to make friends and to make connections that are going to help prevent bullying.
The goal is to improve the overall school climate and ensure that all students get a healthy start, said Alfred.
The Say Something program is Sandy Hook Promise's flagship program.
"We teach students to know the warning signs of someone who might be at risk of hurting themselves or others and teaching them how to act, how to report it to a trusted adult an get help," said Alfred.
She added that empowering students is a huge part of preventing violence because they are the eyes and ears in the school.
SOS Signs of Suicide is a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program. Alfred said there's an alarming rise of suicides across the country and in New Jersey. This program helps train students about the warning signs of suicide both in peers and in themselves.
Sandy Hook Promise has trained more than 3.5 million people in 50 states. In New Jersey, it's mostly been through the Called Action Weeks, which take place in September and February. Alfred said any school can sign up to bring their Say Something or Start With Hello programs to their school at zero cost.