It has been 22 years since the mass shooting at Columbine High School horrified our nation. Since then, more than 280 school shootings have taken the most innocent among us. Tuesday also marked nine years since the school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, where 26 lives were taken by a single gunman who was able to fire 154 bullets in less than 5 minutes. But of that horror, a nonprofit lead by two surviving parents, Sandy Hook Promise, was founded.
Nicole Hockey, mother to Dylan who was 6 when he was killed in his classroom, is now making it her life’s work to end this uniquely American style of violence.
“We know we’re saving lives every day,” Hockley said.
The nonprofit that she is now copresident of points out there are over 2 million acts of violence in schools every year.
And Sandy Hook Promise has lobbied tirelessly for nine years to change gun laws — but also works to change the environment where killers can strike.
“We saw a huge gap in terms of education and programs and using student voices to help bring about solutions,” Hockley explained.
They work directly with students and educators to prevent shootings before a weapon ever gets into the classroom through training some 15 million students and adults across 15,000 schools in grades from kindergarten to 12, in kindness and inclusion, ending isolation and helping students recognize, and act on, warning signs.
A recent PSA stated that four out of five school shooters tell someone their plans before.
Jaylin Morales, a high school senior at High Point Regional High School in Sussex, New Jersey, leads her Sandy Hook Promise Club.
“We need to listen and pay more attention. But also, we are trying to reach out to people that we trust and let them know what we’re seeing. Being able to really see something that we don’t think is right and addressing it right away, can help a lot,” Morales said.
Joel and Jaylin Morales are brother and sister Sandy Hook Promise club leaders. They are part of the nationwide group of student leaders who have made thousands of mental health interventions. Those same student leaders say they have stopped 260 suicides and more.
“Over 60 acts of violence that included a weapon, including seven planned school shootings that we’ve stopped as a result of these programs. And those are only the ones that we know about,” Hockley said.
However, the slaughter still continues. Most recently, four lives taken in Oxford, Michigan by a student gunman
Hockley said her group’s free programming identifies the many signs that are so evident in shootings like this and gives students a way to warn.
“This is almost a textbook example of what not to do. This was a systemwide failure,” Hockley said.
Joel Morales talked about how students are empowered.
“At our school we’re focusing a lot now on who to reach out to, like trusted adults to reach out to,” he said.
It is measurable progress — but with the knowledge we still have a long way to go, according to Hockley.
“There’s a long road ahead of us to get to a point where children can go to school, free from fear,” Hockley said.
Students across the nation used the two weeks leading up to the Sandy Hook anniversary as 14 days of action. Promising to do things from simply saying hello to someone new, reaching out to a friend, knowing who a trusted adult is to report anything to and learning how to prevent violence.
Click here to learn more about SandyHookPromise.org.