How Encouraging Students to “Say Something” Transformed My School

It’s a simple premise, but at my school it has literally saved lives.

Free Say Something Program

When I first started teaching leadership at Harvest Middle School, school shootings were becoming more and more prevalent. And our school had a bullying problem that was only getting worse. We needed to do something, but what? Finding good curriculum that could tackle this huge topic felt nearly impossible.

Fortunately, Sandy Hook Promise’s free Say Something program came onto our radar. The premise of the program is simple: Encourage students to speak up about bullying and violent incidents. There is a short training for the whole school, as well as a pledge and call to action to “say something.” Our wellness team agreed to try the program and see if it could make a difference at our school.

The results were surprising.

There were no incentives for students, yet they took more ownership than we had seen in years. In the months after having our first Say Something week, the number of students “saying something” about bullying or violent incidents went up dramatically. Our wellness team was able to quickly address these issues and, slowly, the culture started changing around our school.

By the following year, students wanted to take the message beyond our school and into the community. More than 200 community members outside of Harvest Middle School signed the Say Something pledge that year.

Say Something week has been a staple at our school ever since, and a week we take very seriously—especially given two tragic events in our community this past year.

A student who graduated from our district, and whose parent works in the district, died in the Thousand Oaks shooting. Many of our teachers and students were deeply affected by this.

A few months after the tragic Thousand Oaks shooting, our school received a tip that a student on our campus was planning a mass shooting. An immediate investigation found probable cause to arrest the at-risk youth, but it was a brave student who overheard the plans and said something to their parent. This student was threatened and, yet, still stood up and helped avert this tragedy from occurring.

This student is a hero in my eyes.

Not only were students scared, teachers felt that they didn’t have control and weren’t sure what could still happen. As a teacher, it is scary to think that our lives and those of the students we serve are on the line every day. Education is something that no one should ever have to fear. That’s why embracing Say Something week as a district—and, even more, as a community—has become critically important to me.

We’d love to hear—would you try the Say Something program? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook. 

Plus, our favorite anti-bullying books for kids.

How Encouraging Students to "Say Something" Transformed My School

Posted by Marie Zorn

Marie Zorn, M.Ed is a teacher at Harvest Middle School in Napa, CA.

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