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Prevent More Student Deaths

Sandy Hook Tragedy Underscores Steps We Can All Take to Save Lives in the Pandemic

Newtown, CT — Next week’s eight-year remembrance of the 20 first-graders and six educators murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School comes at a time when millions of students are struggling. A dangerous mix of mental health challenges, social isolation, unprecedented academic pressures, and lack of support have led one in four students to report suicidal thoughts.  And experts are concerned that suicide rates and gun violence among youth — who now have more access to weapons, if left unsecured — are also on the rise.

Sandy Hook Promise’s National Crisis Center for the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System (SS-ARS) is seeing first-hand the toll this pandemic is taking on students. The Crisis Center operates 24/7/365 working with more than 5,000 schools nationwide.

The most frequently reported tips coming in via the SS-ARS app, hotline, and website relate to suicide, cutting (self-harm), depression, domestic violence, child abuse, and weapons. More than 300 interventions like these through SS-ARS have saved at least one life:

“They texted me saying they were going to end their life today.”

SS-ARS Hotline Tipster

A student contacted the Crisis Center to report that a friend who had lost a close family member to COVID-19 was in the process of killing themselves. In discussions with the student, the counselor discovered that the friend had been starving themselves for more than a week and had just ingested pills while on the bus home.  Local response teams were immediately notified and paramedics located the friend and transported them to the hospital for treatment.

“Since COVID happened, life at home has been really tough and I am thinking about suicide.”

Youth in distress

Student reported that both they and their siblings were being abused by their parents, who regularly drank alcohol. The student said their siblings had been punched in the face and routinely had objects thrown at them. One of the siblings, according to the student, was hospitalized due to their injuries while another was suicidal because of the abuse. The fact that the family was quarantining together only amplified the situation. Local response team was notified. Law enforcement intervened and the school provided additional support services to the students.

A national leader in providing no-cost violence prevention programs for school communities, Sandy Hook Promise emphasizes the simple steps we can take right now to protect our kids:

“We should all learn the warning signs of someone at risk of hurting themselves or others, and when and how to say something.  These signs can range from subtle details like behavioral changes or pulling away from peers to outright threats,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise. “The shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School exhibited many warning signs before murdering my youngest son on Dec. 14, 2012.  If only someone who had seen the signs had been brave enough to say something and reach out for help, my beautiful butterfly Dylan might still be with us today.”

“We must pass meaningful gun safety reform — including universal background checks, safe storage solutions, and expanded access to Extreme Risk Protection Orders — before more children are senselessly killed in acts of gun violence,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise. “It’s time for lawmakers to act on these important and life-saving measures. If they act now, thousands of innocent lives like my sweet little Daniel could be saved.”


About Sandy Hook Promise: Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to end school shootings and create a culture change that prevents violence and other harmful acts that hurt children. Through its life-saving, evidence-informed Know the Signs prevention programs, SHP educates and empowers youth and adults to recognize, intervene, and get help for individuals who may be socially isolated and/or at risk of hurting themselves or others. Through nonpartisan policy and partnerships, SHP advances gun safety, youth mental health, and violence prevention education at the state and federal levels that protect all children from gun violence in their schools, homes, and communities. SHP is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. 

Media Contact: Stephanie Morris, Dini Von Mueffling Communications M: 847.322.3832 | O: 646.650.5004 | E: [email protected]