A Powerful Conversation About Preventing School Violence

With the number of school shootings in America at an all-time high in 2023, breaking the record set in 2022, school safety is a clear area of concern for students, families, and administrators alike. At the 2024 ASU+GSV Summit, a group of school safety advocates spoke about how to address this crisis of violence. 

Data cited by K-12 Dive and EdWeek shows that there have been 1,147 school shooting incidents in the last 5 years, with a record high 348 in 2023 – a reflection of why Nicole Hockley, co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise and the mother of Sandy Hook victim Dylan Hockley, calls today’s students “the school shooting generation.” 

Hockley was one of five speakers at an ASU+GSV 2024 panel session titled “Safe Learning, Safe Futures: Addressing Gun Safety in Education,” which also featured Nick Suplina of Everytown for Gun Safety, Lori Alhadeff of Make Our Schools Safe, Christina Kishimoto of Voice4Equity, and Daniel Lee of Kokomo24/7®. 

Hockley’s advocacy for safer schools stems from her personal tragedy. “I needed to answer the question in my mind of, ‘What could have been done to prevent this?’” says Hockley. “The theme that was constantly coming through was the ability to create an intervention before violence happens.” 

Hockley lost her son Dylan in the 2012 Newtown shooting, when a shooter opened fire in Sandy Hook Elementary School killing 20 children and 6 adults.

Practicing early intervention before violence happens is also a key focus for Nick Suplina. An attorney and policy advocate, Suplina now works for Everytown for Gun Safety to promote state and federal violence prevention programs. “There are a lot of reasons for hope that gun violence can be reduced,” Suplina told the audience. 

Some of those reasons for hope are what multiple panelists call ‘upstream solutions.’  

Upstream solutions, like anonymous reporting systems, threat assessment teams, incident management databases, and visitor management systems, help schools de-escalate potential sources of violence before they reach a critical level. They are a key part of a holistic approach to school safety. 

The panelists also discussed the importance of responding quickly and effectively to violence. Lori Alhadeff, founder of Make Our Schools Safe and the mother of Parkland victim Alyssa Alhadeff, urges schools to have infrastructure in place to respond. “Lawmakers are not always aware of technology like panic buttons that already exists and can help,” she said. 

Alhadeff lost her daughter Alyssa in the 2018 Parkland shooting, when a shooter opened fire in Marjory Stoneman Taylor Douglas High School killing 17 students and staff.

Christina Kishimoto provided a superintendent’s perspective, saying it is crucial for superintendents to engage their school board and their community about safety tools and operational planning. “The number one responsibility of a superintendent is to have conversations about safety,” she said, “no matter how unpleasant it may be to think about or how uncomfortable it may be to discuss among people with different policy and political opinions.” 

Kokomo24/7® founder Daniel Lee provided a technologist’s perspective, based on his experience developing a software platform used by schools across America. “You can’t expect any technology to solve for gun violence in schools, but the right technology should give you the tools to respond to the unique threats your school faces. That’s the exact reason I created the Kokomo platform,” Lee said. 

The panelists agreed that preparation is key, both for preventing violence and responding to it effectively. Taking a holistic approach to school safety enables schools to make a comprehensive plan for before and after violence occurs. 

Hockley thinks that if more schools committed themselves to this approach, America’s children could be protected from gun violence. “We don’t ask enough, what does safety mean to you? And how can a school climate make you feel safe and make your community feel more connected, preventing violence?”


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