Lee County schools to join STOP School Violence Program

On Monday, the School District of Lee County aims to add another layer of safety to its schools by joining the STOP School Violence Program.

The STOP School Violence Program is an educational training program that teaches students and staff to recognize, intervene and get help for individuals who may be socially isolated or at risk of hurting themselves or others. It is offered by Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit organization founded and led by many of the family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.

The group believes in empowering youth to “know the signs” and unite all people who value the protection of children to take action to prevent gun violence and stop the tragic loss of life.

The Lee County School District is in the early process of applying for a grant of $850,476 that would cover program costs if awarded. The Lee County School Board is set to vote on approval of the grant submission today, which would then be submitted to Sandy Hook Promise.

Lee County calls this a logical next step in strengthening school safety.

Students being evacuated from Sandy Hook Elementary School following a deadly shooting in 2012.

“We are entrusted by parents every single day to take care of their children,” said LCSD spokesman Rob Spicker. “We take that seriously. And what we hope comes out of this STOP School Violence Program is that we really do create students in schools that feel connected and care for each other. If you have that, then you’ve got a big step ahead of protecting your schools.

The STOP School Violence Program is made up of three main components. The first is an educational campaign called “Start with Hello,” which teaches students the importance of making students feel like they’re not alone, encouraging them to reach out to those who may feel socially isolated.

The second campaign is “Say Something,” which trains students and staff how to recognize something that may be a threat and how to act on that threat in terms of who to tell.

The third component implements what are called SAVE Clubs, SAVE standing for “Students Against Violence Everywhere.” These are clubs started at the schools to empower students to take control of making their school a safer place.

Mark Barden, a co-founder of the Sandy Hook Promise program who lost his 7-year-old son Daniel in the shooting, says the mission to protect kids from what his son endured feels personal to him.

“The shooter at sandy hook was chronically socially isolated, and was giving off—for what we know, from what we can tell—at least a year of warning signs,” Barden said. “I think about it all the time. If somebody like my little Daniel or somebody who was trained in the ‘Start with a Hello Program,’ who was able to recognize chronic social isolation, maybe had one more conversation with this individual, it may have changed everything.”

If LCSD does end up receiving the grant, it could be by as soon as the end of the year.

Reporter:Taylor Wirtz
Writer:Joey Pellegrino
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