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The State of Student and School Safety

School and school safety advocacy for youth and Trusted Adults

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Sandy Hook Promise’s Know the Signs programs and bipartisan policies are rooted in student well-being and effective school safety methods. Which is why we celebrate developments like President Biden’s 2023 executive order to help stop gun violence and the creation of the White House’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention. This commitment to student and school safety strengthens our mission: to educate and empower youth and adults to prevent violence in schools, homes, and communities.

So, what should students and the Trusted Adults in their lives be doing to support these efforts in local communities? The Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund hosted “The State of Student Safety” webinar on March 8, 2024, the day after President Biden’s 2024 State of the Union speech. Altogether, it spotlighted our historical progress and where current school safety efforts stand. Significantly, it empowered focus on where the effort toward student and school safety is going with your incredible support.  

Watch the State of Student Safety Webinar

Sandy Hook Promise Advocates for Student Safety

To better understand where we’re going, take a look at where we’ve been. Because of the support of our gun violence prevention and school safety advocates like you, change is happening.

  • The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016: This bill overhauled America’s mental health system. It expands federal resources to improve mental health support. What’s more, it includes parity for insurance coverage of mental illness. 
  • The STOP School Violence Act: Passed in 2018, this Sandy Hook Promise-led bill funds school violence prevention. For this purpose, it includes training students how to recognize the warning signs of violence and get help.
  • Project AWARE: Congress expanded this federal program by passing the STANDUP Act in March 2022. They built upon a law that was initially created in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. Further, schools can now apply for priority funding if they support or create school suicide prevention plans or training. 
  • Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Reauthorization Act: Congress passed this bill in December 2022. It provides funding for suicide prevention programs. As a result, it increased support educators and students, crisis services, and community partnerships.
  • Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA): Congress passed this life-saving gun violence prevention legislation after the tragic shooting in Uvalde. It was one of the first comprehensive reforms to pass in nearly 30 years. It provides vital funding for extreme risk protection orders. Specifically, these orders allow law enforcement and families to keep firearms out of the hands of someone in crisis. In fact, Sandy Hook Promise played a critical role in helping to draft this bill and push it over the finish line. BSCA is coupled with funding to mental health programs and community-based violence interventions.
  • 2023 White House Executive Order (and investigating gun marketing to kids): Building on the success of the BSCA, and with Sandy Hook Promise’s support, President Biden signed a 2023 executive order to help stop gun violence. This included the implementation of the BSCA through expanded background checks, implementation of temporary transfer laws, and by encouraging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to release a report on gun marketing practices, including those directed toward minors.

    Read Sandy Hook Promise’s report Untargeting Kids: Protecting Children From Harmful Firearm Marketing.

Creating Bipartisan Solutions to Protect Students and School Safety

Efforts for the expansion of background checks and raising the age to purchase firearms will continue. Your support and advocacy are critical. In a divided Congress, we know these bills will be challenging to pass.

Additional focus will be on (but not limited to):

  • Amplifying the youth voice. In the summer of 2023, SHP’s National Youth Advisory Board advocated for increased funding for the STOP School Violence Act and shared their own stories with legislators on why mental health mattered to them. Later, funding for the STOP School Violence Act was approved again in March 2024 (the weekend immediately following the webinar). This continual funding provides more access in schools to SHP’s life-saving Know the Signs violence prevention program, and the advocacy from engaged youth played a vital role in its continuous success. Read Sandy Hook Promise’s white paper on ongoing impact of the STOP School Violence Act. This collaboration between adult and youth voices is critical to calling for more action from Congress to prioritize youth and community safety.
  • Urging Congress to strengthen student safety through the advancement of critical legislation such as the PLAN (Preparing Leaders to Assess Needs) Act and continued funding for the STOP School Violence Act. The PLAN Act establishes a link between school district administrators, communities and state-based professionals, to streamline essential planning resources. The act will help schools identify school safety solutions and give schools a direct link to experts who can connect them with life-saving resources. The PLAN Act will also have a Youth Advisory Council, composed of students and parents, again, ensuring youth have an active voice in solutions.
  • Expanding state-based bipartisan work. SHP will take bipartisan ideas that have already passed in red and blue states, like temporary transfer or red flag laws, and scale them to every state, so students can be safe no matter what state they live in and grow up.

5 Things You Can Do for Student and School Safety

Most importantly, empowering students and Trusted Adults is critical to this cultural change toward improved student and school safety. The most impactful steps forward will be when experienced youth have a consistent seat at the table.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Support the STOP School Violence Act by submitting your personal story. Tell us why violence prevention programs matter to you. We’ll pass your messages on to Congress.
  2. Learn how to be a successful youth advocate.
  3. Volunteer to become a Promise Leader and help drive change.
  4. Join the more than 10 million people to Make the Promise. You’ll be supporting solutions to create safer homes, schools, and communities.
  5. Lastly, be ready for quick, urgent actions to demand action! We appreciate all that you do to prioritize student and school safety.