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February 2020

Greetings Families and Community Members,  

Our District's mission is to provide every student with a safe, equitable, restorative culture and community, the opportunity to realize their full potential, access to an excellent 21st century education, and the skills and knowledge to pursue lifelong learning. Keeping students safe and secure is our highest priority. As part of this mission, we have been focusing on ways we can reduce or eliminate instances of school violence and bullying. We are currently working with a consortium of schools within the Contra Costa County Office of Education to provide programming through Sandy Hook Promise. Sandy Hook Promise is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Sandy Hook Promise’s mission is to  create a culture engaged in preventing shootings, violence, and other harmful acts in schools. Sandy Hook Promise is a moderate, above-the-politics organization that supports sensible program and policy solutions that address the “human side” of gun violence by preventing individuals from ever getting to the point of picking up a firearm to hurt themselves or others.

The programs through Sandy Hook Promise are based on a central theme that students are far less likely to hurt themselves or someone else when they have an opportunity to be more socially included and connected to each other. One of the things that we know about school violence and bullying is that students who are at risk of hurting themselves or others often show signs and signals before an act of violence takes place. When you don't know what to look for, it can be easy to miss signs, or dismiss them as unimportant, sometimes with tragic consequences. Sandy Hook Promise’s Know the Signs programs teach youth and adults how to prevent school violence, shootings, and other harmful acts. Students and educators learn how to help identify at-risk behaviors and intervene to get them the help they need. This program offers 30- to 40-minute student trainings that are delivered in a classroom or an assembly. Programs also align with Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) competencies for Social-Emotional Learning including relationship skills, social awareness, responsible decision-making and self-awareness. This program includes lesson plans, activities, games and more to engage and inform students, discussion guides to reinforce and expand on the core teachings in a classroom setting, and companion parent brochures that explain the features and benefits of these programs.

Everyone in our District cares deeply about children, and we know that social isolation is a very real epidemic. It can cause a student to pull away and, in serious situations, even hurt themselves or others. Start With Hello is one of Sandy Hook Promise’s Know the Signs programs and teaches students to be more socially inclusive and connected to each other. With activities and curricula, the Start With Hello program empowers students to end social isolation by teaching them three easy steps: See Someone Alone: how to recognize the signs of loneliness and social isolation; Reach Out and Help: what students can do to help others feel included; Start With Hello: how to break the ice and strike up a conversation. These simple activities help us to create a culture of inclusion in our schools and community.

In four out of five school shootings, the attacker had told people of their plans ahead of time. In a comprehensive study of school shootings from 1974 to 2000, conducted by the Secret Service and Department of Education, 93% of school shooters planned the attack in advance. They often gave verbal, physical, and virtual signs that they were planning and plotting to harm others. That’s why Sandy Hook Promise provides us with the Say Something Program and an Anonymous Reporting System. Say Something has been delivered to students to look for warning signs and threats – especially on social media – of someone at risk of hurting themselves or others. What’s more, our students have become empowered to “say something” before a tragedy can occur. We have taught students the following: Recognize warning signs and threats;  Act immediately; take it seriously: Understand strategies to take action and overcome potential barriers to being an “upstander” rather than a “bystander;" Say something: intervene when we see warning signs and threats by telling a trusted adult (and know who those trusted adults are), call 911, or use our new anonymous reporting system. Say Something informs and educates about observable warning signs (written, spoken, photographed, in video) that often exist in behaviors that could lead to someone hurting themselves or others. It also teaches individuals how to safely report on warning signs and potential threats and use the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System. The system can be accessed via a downloadable app, telephone hotline, and website that our students can use to report an issue when they see a classmate who is at risk of harming themselves or others. We have distributed this app to our students and can also be downloaded by parents and the community. The app is called See Something Say Something S4. We encourage everyone in our community to download the app and use it where appropriate.

During the week of March 2-6, 2020, thousands of schools and youth organizations from across the United States will participate in National Say Something Week. Say Something Week raises awareness and educates students and the community through training, advertising, public proclamations, contests and school awards. Say Something Week reinforces the power young people have to prevent tragedies and save lives when they “Say Something” to a trusted adult. Please be on the lookout for activities occurring within our schools. Together, we can make our schools safer and more inclusive for all students. 

Finally, you can learn more about these programs and many other happenings in our District by following us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/johnswettusd . As always, I can be contacted by cell phone at 925-639-7408 or by email at cmiller@jsusd.org.

Charles Miller, Ed. D.
Superintendent
John Swett Unified School District
Office: 510-245-4300 x2105
Cell: 925-639-7408