By Julia Poole, Staff Writer
// School comes with daily stressors such as test anxiety, loads of homework and navigating the ins and outs of relationships. In addition to these mundane issues, millions of Americans attend school each day with concern for their safety due to the growing issue of gun violence.
To combat the increasing violence around the U.S., family members of the 26 victims in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newton, Connecticut, founded the Sandy Hook Promise (SHP). This national, non-profit organization aims to prevent shootings through educating students on the warning signs that exist before acts of violence.
Students were trained to detect the signs of bullying, suicidal thoughts, and gun violence from an informational video during academy on Sept. 25.
The video also discussed two ways of reporting these threats; by going directly to the administration or by using an app that sends threats to a twenty-four-seven Sandy Hook call center in Florida. The threat then gets classified into either an immediate threat to life safety or a threat where no one is in imminent danger. The call center notifies Acalanes Principal Travis Bell, the Director of Wellness Adriana Martinez, Associate Superintendent Amy McNamara, Superintendent John Nickerson, and the Wellness Coordinator at each school.
“I think it will help prevent school shootings because I think a lot of the reasons why people don’t report things is because they’re scared to,” junior Erin Meade said.
According to the SHP website, in four out of five school shootings at least one person knew of the attacker’s plan before it was carried out. The administration hopes that this app will create an opportunity for more people to come forward.
“I think this gives people the opportunity because it’s anonymous,” Meade said.
The consensus seems to agree with Meade’s conclusion; that being able to anonymously report threats overcomes the fear of talking to the administrators.
“They have a lot of power so they can get you in very serious trouble, and I guess confronting them for anything can be scary and nerve-wracking,” sophomore Molly Ransdell said, “and telling them about something so serious just kind of adds to the pressure.”
While there was some positive feedback regarding the training, many students felt it dragged on.
“My class wasn’t very positive about it in general. They were citing a lot of bad reviews that they had seen online and the overall app score, so I felt like that was disheartening,” Nicole Schwantes, Acalanes math teacher said.
SHP’s message was what resonated with McNamara.
“I like their message in that there are signs and symptoms that people who are at risk for self-harm or harming others exhibit, and I think it’s important, sadly, in our society that we all need to be vigilant about those people… so that was kind of the appeal I think of Sandy Hook to the district,” McNamara said.
Another issue AUHSD is taking into account, are students understanding the importance of SHP.
“In reality, I don’t know if people are going to take the video seriously, or as seriously as hoped, as intended, unfortunately,” Ransdell commented.
As a result of students not understanding the severity of the program, AUHSD has already received false tips.
“We had a prank yesterday which I’m sure was a prank. There aren’t scary clowns running around.” McNamara said.
The Sandy Hook crisis center takes false threats very seriously. First, they send a message to the reporter describing the punishments for this illegal action. According to McNamara, in about 99 percent of cases the person backs off after that, but if they persist they break confidentiality and reveal the person’s identity.
“I think in the end the goal is for students to be safe and well, and the more we talk about what that looks like and what signs we should be looking for I think that’s going to be helpful,” Schwantes said.