How can schools keep kids safe?
It’s a question that can haunt school staff and parents, keeping them awake at night. In today’s America, the answers to that question are complicated.
Over the past year, Powell school officials have devoted much time and attention to the issue, working to develop a comprehensive safety plan. The new plan will consider everything from training for an active shooter to barricades on doors, as well as identifying mental health resources.
Under proposed legislation recently approved by the Wyoming Senate, school districts across Wyoming would be required to adopt security and safety plans, similar to the one already in the works for Park County School District No. 1.
Behind every discussion, strategy and effort is an overarching goal: Keeping kids safe. But that doesn’t mean kids play a passive role in school safety. In fact, a single student can prevent an unimaginable tragedy by using their voice.
Kids — and their parents — have all heard the phrase, “If you see something, say something.”
While this saying has become commonplace, it shouldn’t be ignored.
A powerful example recently played out in Gillette. A 14-year-old brought two handguns and 43 rounds of ammunition to Sage Valley Junior High, allegedly with the intent of shooting specific students and staff members, the Gillette News Record reported.
He told a few friends about his plans and showed them the guns. Those friends didn’t report what they heard or saw, because he threatened to harm them. But he later showed the gun to another student, who decided to tell the school principal.
Thankfully, the principal safely disarmed the teen and no one was hurt in the incident. The student now faces nine counts of attempted first-degree murder.
The key word there is “attempted.” A student and a principal both showed incredible courage, and no one was shot that day.
That incident, from November, is not even the most recent crisis to be averted.
Just last month, a high school student spoke out about a 16-year-old’s plans to attack an Islamic community in upstate New York. That led to the arrest of four suspects, who allegedly had an arsenal of more than 20 firearms and three improvised explosive devices, according to NPR.
“The kid who initially said something to an adult saved people’s lives,” said Patrick Phelan, police chief of Greece, New York. “We tell kids this all the time, we say if you see something say something, you gotta report anything suspicious. The lesson is that it works and as a result nobody’s dead.”
Saying something can save lives.
To help spread that message, schools across the U.S. will observe Say Something Week from Feb. 25 to March 1. The goal is to teach students how to look for warning signs and threats — especially on social media — from a peer who may be planning to hurt themselves or someone else. The initiative reinforces the power youth have to prevent tragedies when they say something to a trusted adult.
Say Something Week is led by the Sandy Hook Promise, a group all too familiar with tragedy. After their children were killed in the horrific Sandy Hook shooting, these parents hope to help prevent other tragedies.
In most threats of violence, at least one person notices concerning behavior or knows something before the incident happens. That’s why we must be vigilant and brave enough to say something, and teach children to do the same. After all, you could be the only one to speak out.
Keeping kids safe at school — and around our community — is up to all of us.