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Research Drives School Violence Prevention

Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is the only national organization to take a public health approach to ending the gun violence epidemic, combining community-based programs, comprehensive research, and nonpartisan policy. Our signature Know the Signs violence prevention programs are based on critical analysis of every major mass attack1 and school shooting 2. Comprehensive research and analysis reveal that key warning signs precede violence and that recognizing the signs is essential to violence prevention.

Read on for the research that underlies and proves this life-saving work and the continued need for wider accessibility, including ongoing research, key findings and publications, and the partnership between SHP and University Of Michigan School Of Public Health.

Protecting America's Youth From Gun Violence

Sandy Hook Promise’s leaders are at the forefront of school safety, guiding and supporting the work of the National Center for School Safety. Together, we have proven that schools are the critical entry point, offering the ideal environment to promote effective strategies that prevent gun violence.

Students holding SAVE Promise Club and Sandy Hook Promise sign

U.S. School Safety: The Impact of the STOP School Violence Act

Since 2018, the STOP School Violence Act and its federal grant program, supported by SHP, research, and legislative partners, have been pivotal in enhancing school safety. This funding is crucial for providing evidence-informed programs that empower and protect students.

Ongoing Research

Using Data Science to Save More Lives

SHP is embarking on a two-year research project with the University of Michigan School of Public Health to study anonymous reporting systems. Funded by a $700,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SHP and the University of Michigan School of Public Health will analyze previously resolved tips submitted by students throughout the state of North Carolina via the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System.

Students promoting Say Something on a table at their shcool

Innovative Learning Projects Inform Program Development

In 2023, SHP launched three learning projects to further optimize and deepen the Know the Signs (KTS) programmatic work: District 9 in the Bronx, New York, Communities in Schools of Atlanta, Georgia, and the United Way of Southwest Georgia. The effectiveness of KTS’s impact on the reduction in violence, perception of school safety, and behavior changes are being studied. Our deepening cultural understanding with stakeholders in these diverse communities is providing the necessary insights to evolve our programs to better serve all schools nationwide.

Evaluating School-Based Interventions in Los Angeles

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.

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.

Key Findings and Publications

The Say Something Anonymous Reporting System Has Proven Results

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. In August of 2022, the Journal of School Violence published “The Effectiveness of the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System in Preventing School Violence: A Cluster Randomized Control Trial in 19 Middle Schools,” proving our approach to training and providing safe, easy ways to get help works.

Examining over 700 students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida over nine months, researchers found that the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System “improved the likelihood of self-efficacy and intention to report threats of violence.” The study also found that interventions also promoted a “safer perception of school safety” with less school violence.

Firearm-Related Tips in a Statewide Anonymous Reporting System

Gun violence remains the leading cause of death of children and teens3 in the U.S. A study in January 2024 by the University of Michigan and Sandy Hook Promise, published by the journal Pediatrics, showed that the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System (Say Something ARS) can be a viable, effective solution in gun violence prevention.

Researchers found that in a pool of more than 18,000 tips submitted by students between 2019 and 2023, 10% of tips contained mention of a firearm. Elyse Thulin, assistant professor at the Institute of Firearm Injury Prevention said, “Youth are turning to Say Something ARS to submit information about what can be very highly risky situations.”

Bullying, suicide ideation, and mental health concerns were also commonly triaged tips, but 38% were about potential school shootings and nearly 25% were about knowing of a weapon.

SHP’s University of Michigan School of Public Health Partnership

As 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, SHP works with experts in the fields of K-12 education, school safety, child psychology, and threat assessment to continually update and refine our programs.

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

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: An 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

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.

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.