Medina, Say Something!

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On Friday, October 28, students of Medina High School welcomed Andre Elliott for a presentation on “Say Something”, the school’s new program established to prevent gun and school violence.

An initiative put into place after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2014, this campaign teaches students to reach out if they see something out of the ordinary.  Unfortunately, people knew that the shooter, Adam Lanza, had plans to attack the school. This also happens with teen suicide, but nobody spoke up about seeing the suspicious activity.

The assembly’s goal is to inform students that there are safe spaces and people to talk to in the school if they notice anything is out of the ordinary.  This can include threatening messages on social media, tweets, or just hearing anything around the school.  The new policy will be placed in next year’s handbook, making this a program that the school won’t leave behind coming next school year.  

“I don’t want our presentation or Say Something to just be a focus on gun violence that’s how it started, it started being about gun violence and mental health,” said Mrs. Julie McCabe, one of the Medina High School’s principals. “Which is great, but I think they realized over the years there is so much more. There’s the drug use, there’s the bullying, there’s the self-harm.” 

Medina High School was one of 1,300 schools to apply to this program and was in the top 10% of all who applied.  Elliott came and spoke to the 9th and 10th graders in the Performing Arts Center and the 11th and 12th graders watched while the assembly was broadcast to the classrooms.  

“One thing I like about this, and I’ve had past conversations with people about this afterward, is the fact they say this is something they see every day,” said Elliott. “And sometimes it’s overlooked, so it really brings their attention to issues that they see.  Sometimes they don’t think to speak up, so now they have the ability to speak up and know that they’re actually making an impact by doing so.”

The goal of the Sandy Hook Promise is to teach students that it’s okay to reach out when they feel uncomfortable or unsafe.  It is also a way to bring people in the community closer.  

“I am a firm believer that if you feel safe here, you feel that people care about you and you have people that you trust, you’re going to exceed our expectations in terms of your academics,” said Mrs. McCabe.

Elliott started off explaining the steps on how to reduce student violence, suicides, and threats.  The three steps are to look for warning signs, act immediately, and to say something to a trusted adult.  These steps allow students to protect themselves and prevent these things from happening.

Many people show warning signs before attempting anything.  Most mass shootings are planned more than 6 months prior, and in nearly every case warning signs were given.  

Warning signs are thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that indicate a significant change.  Elliott related seeing these warning signs to his own life, telling about the sudden change in his daughter’s interest in the school volleyball team.

Warning signs can be seen a lot of places including social media, hallways, the lunch room and classrooms.  They can be spoken out loud, through gestures, in photos and videos, and through actions and behaviors.

The Sandy Hook Promise states that anyone who says something to a trusted adult will not be labeled as a ‘traitor’.  In this case, snitches do not get stitches.  

“I’m okay with somebody being mad at me for me making an attempt to try and save your life,” explained Mrs. McCabe.

By saying something to a trusted adult, students get the knowledge and experience to make sure they get the necessary means in place for someone who needs help.  If there is a need for immediate help, students should call 911 and then tell a trusted adult.

Some examples of a trusted adult include parents, teachers, guidance counselors, school police, religious leaders, principals, coaches, or community organization leaders.  Students are the eyes and ears of their schools and communities because they see and hear things adults do not.  

Students finished out the presentation by taking the Sandy Hook Promise pledge, saying they’d look for warning signs, act immediately, and say something to a trusted adult. In addition, they also filled out a survey of follow-up questions asking about their willingness to report what they see, as well their level of comfortableness at school. 

“I think it’s very important to find out how safe people feel. I think the majority would say ‘I feel safe’ but I’m sure there is a group of kids that don’t for whatever reason and that’s what we have to change,” said Mrs. McCabe.

The Sandy Hook Promise will be instituted throughout the school year and it will be included in future school handbooks.