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Program teaches children how to spot troubling warning signs with their peers

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MIAMI- Gun violence in schools has districts across the country looking for ways to protect students. A program teaches children how to spot troubling warning signs with their peers.

Seventh graders at John H Walker Middle School in Nutley, New Jersey learn how to spot a potential school shooter.

“I think it’s necessary, it’s an important topic,” said seventh-grader Evan Petrov.

Sandy Hook Promise, formed after the Newtown Massacre in Connecticut, offers the “Say Something” program for free to middle and high schools nationwide.

“There’s a lot going on in schools today,” said Sara Militello, training manager.

She said the aim was to teach children to spot the warning signs when someone is at risk of hurting themselves or others.

“We can empower them to say something and express themselves,” she said.

These signs include withdrawing from friends and school, bragging about guns, or suggesting self-harm or threats to others. Often these red flags can be seen on social media. Sandy Hook Promise said that in four out of five school shootings, the assailant told people of their plans ahead of time.

“That’s why it’s so important that we talk to students to recognize when someone needs help. Bring that to the trusted adult who has the experience and knowledge to get that person to help. help she needs,” Militello said.

Nutley Anti-Bullying coordinator Joe Capello said the challenge was to get the kids talking.

“A lot of students worry that if they say something they will break their trust with their friend. But for me, it is about increasing your relationship with your friend because you are worried about their safety,” said Capello said.

Students like Dean Turso, 12, say they get the message. “It’s not a snitch if you tell them what’s going on because it can help a person,” he said.

Difficult conversations that are necessary and that could save lives.

Sandy Hook Promise also offers an anonymous reporting system through a mobile app, hotline, and websites.