Research Drives School Violence Prevention

Sandy Hook Promise’s signature Know the Signs violence prevention programs are based on analysis of every major mass attack and school shooting. This comprehensive research by National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), within the Secret Service, and Department of Homeland Security reveals the key warning signs that often precede violence, asserting gun violence is preventable. Recognizing the signs and getting help are critical to violence prevention. And research proves our programs work.

Protecting America's Youth From Gun Violence

Our leaders are at the forefront of school safety, guiding and supporting the work of the National Center for School Safety. The forthcoming book, A Relentless Threat: Scholars Respond to Teens on Weaponized School Violence, features a chapter on Sandy Hook Promise’s research-informed prevention practices, co-authored by Sandy Hook Promise Research Director, Dr. Rachel Masi, PhD.

Read our white paper, Protecting America’s Youth from Gun Violence, also authored by Dr. Masi. You’ll learn more about our holistic, public health approach to ending the gun violence epidemic.

Approach

Sandy Hook Promise is the only organization dedicated to teaching school communities how to spot these warning signs of violence and when and how to speak up to get help.

We work with experts in the fields of K-12 education, school safety, child psychology, and threat assessment to continually update and refine our no-cost programs.

What the Research Shows​

The respected researchers at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health evaluate our programs. And the studies are showing that our programs are effective.

Violence is preventable when you know the signs. Explore our current and recent studies. 

Kids Will Say Something When Given Training and Tools

Completed in 2019, The Effectiveness of the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System in Preventing School Violence, undertook a cluster randomized control trial in 19 middle schools within the Miami-Dade County Public Schools District.

The study confirmed that youth are well-positioned to identify and report at-risk students and precursor behaviors such as social isolation, bullying, absenteeism, substance use, and mental duress before violence can occur. But some violence prevention programs in schools  like zero-tolerance policies and increasing security and monitoring systems  may have the unintended effect of reinforcing the “code of silence” among students.

This University of Michigan research shows that anonymous reporting systems (ARS), when paired with proper training, have the potential to improve school safety by removing the fear of retaliation and lack of skills and confidence to intervene. This comprehensive approach facilitates reporting and improves school climate.

Key findings include:

Training students to recognize warning signs, take them seriously, and get help combined with an anonymous reporting system effectively improves students’ competency, confidence, and intentionality in reporting warning signs.

Short-term outcomes show:

  • Increased willingness to speak up
  • Better attitudes about school
  • Stronger relationships between students and teachers

These results are tied to longer-term outcomes, including improved school culture and fewer violent acts, overall.

Watch the Video to Learn What Experts Say

Effectiveness of the “Know the Signs” Programs

A groundbreaking pilot project, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Start With Hello and Say Something in the Los Angeles Unified School District, also yielded positive findings. 

Between January and June 2017, the University of Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center conducted a case control test within a large urban school district to evaluate Start With Hello (SWH) and Say Something (SS): the cornerstone Know the Signs programs.

  • After attending SWH, participants reported improvement in perceptions of school safety.
  • When compared to those that did not attend, SWH participants reported greater willingness to report warning signs of mental distress and threats
    and more positive relationships with trusted adults.
  • After attending the SS program, participants reported significantly fewer aggressive behaviors, more positive attitudes towards school and better perceptions of school safety.
  • When compared to those that did not attend SS, participants reported more positive attitudes towards school, more positive relationships with trusted adults, and a greater willingness to report signs of mental distress and threats.

These programs were positively received by the teachers and administrators, who indicated strong interest in expanding student, parent, and community engagement. The University of Michigan concluded that this evaluation provides promising evidence that the Know the Signs programs are effective. Part II is now in progress with support from the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research.

A diverse group of students celebrate Say Something in their school gymnasium. These students from Chardon High School were among the first in Ohio to hold Say Something, back when the program launched in 2015.

On-Going Research Study

The National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research has invested in a major study, Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Know the Signs Programs in the Los Angeles Unified School District

This three-year study will provide a rigorous evaluation of school-based interventions that aim to decrease violence and promote safety via early detection of signs of potential violent or self-harm behavior, building inclusivity and respect among students and staff, and encouraging a culture of safety.

Learn more about the study

Anonymous Reporting Systems

Anonymous reporting systems (ARS) are associated with fewer school-based violent behaviors and have the strongest effect compared to any other type of prevention strategy.

According to a report about to be released, ARS may also play an important role in supporting equity by giving students a safe space to report safety concerns about themselves or their peers.

However, because systems of societal injustice often manifest in schools, strategies for preventing school violence have to be evaluated to ensure that they do not further contribute to inequities.

Researchers note that the “success of an ARS at addressing inequity depends, in part, on remaining vigilant about equitable treatment in how reports are handled. Training on issues of unconscious bias related to ARS may be an important component.” Future research also must consider the role of families and communities in ARS implementation and school safety.

We need more data. Researchers tell us that there are “such wide gaps in our knowledge that any systematic and well-designed studies regarding ARS would be informative and help build our science for school violence prevention.”

Sandy Hook Promise continues to partner with experts at the University of Michigan to support this on-going research.

Where to Next?

Our Programs

Our proven Know the Signs programs teach youth and adults how to prevent violence, shootings, and other harmful acts.

Our Impact

Committed to driving change to protect children, measuring our effectiveness to learn and celebrate our shared success.

Our Advocacy

Through our sister organization, Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund, you can help change policy to enact common sense reforms.