Research shows that four in five school shooters tell someone about their plans ahead of time. One father who lost his son at Sandy Hook Elementary visited a St. Petersburg high school on Thursday to teach students how to recognize and report the warning signs.
Mark Barden's son, Daniel, was among 20 children killed in Newtown, Connecticut more than six years ago.
“For me it is very personal, in that I get to honor my little Daniel in this way.”
Barden co-founded a non-profit called Sandy Hook Promise. Since 2015, the group has trained 5.5 million students nationwide to speak up when they see something worrying, especially on social media.
“We have prevented several mass casualty events already and dozens of suicides already just by students following this program and training that they have learned with the Say Something programs,” said Barden.
At St. Petersburg's Northeast High School, students underwent one hour of training in how to spot warning signs. They also learned to use a free app called "Say Something" that helps them share concerns anonymously.
The tips go directly to a crisis center, where a trained professional can assess the severity and urgency, and act accordingly.
"They are the eyes and the ears in these social media platforms, where their teachers are not observing these behaviors, their parents are not observing these behaviors, the students are," Barden said.
The program is not yet available everywhere, but organizers hope to expand. Schools can apply for grant funding that helps offset the costs, Barden said.
"We envision training everybody and sustaining these programs so that this is embedded into the culture and the climate of schools nationwide," he said.
Anyone who wants to report someone who may be a threat to him/herself or others can also visit saysomething.net/#submit_tip.