Pinellas Schools implementing program developed by Sandy Hook Parents

Posted at 6:26 PM, Apr 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-25 02:44:11-04

Tuesday, a commission looking into the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting,met for the first time and is focusing on three specific things that might have made the deadly massacre much worse.

The group, led by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, found teachers couldn't lock their classrooms from the inside during the February 14 shooting. In addition, the doors had small windows, making it easy for the shooter to fire into the classrooms.

Another problem: Broward County's Sheriff's Office radios weren't on the same channel as Coral Springs Police, making it tough for both agencies to communicate.

As that investigation continues, Pinellas County is partnering with parents from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to keep Tampa Bay students safe and make sure warning signs are taken seriously.

The programs were designed by Sandy Hook parents and are called "Say Something" and "Start with Hello."

The programs will teach middle and high schoolers which warning signs to look for in their peers and on social media, give them courage to speak up and reach out to at risk kids who seem isolated.

Donna Sicilian with Pinellas County Schools says in almost every case of school violence or suicide, there are warning signs.

“A lot of times these kids involved in violence or who commit suicide were not on the radar of the faculty. They weren’t aware the child was struggling but when we talk to their peers, they would say things like 'now I remember this was happening at home or he broke up with her.'”

The program is free to schools and comes with an anonymous reporting app monitored 24/7 by councilors. “It really limits the possibility of some things falling through the cracks," Sicilian added.

The program is already helping to curb school violence and suicide at 7,000 schools across the nation, and Pinellas County will be the second district in Florida to add it this fall. 

Since its 2014 debut in Ohio, Sandy Hook Promise has trained more than 3.5 million students across 25 states.