Yesterday I had an opportunity to talk about #WalkUp on national TV. I was invited to be on the Michaela Pereira show on @HLNTV. The idea behind #WalkUp is not mine. In fact, I saw it on a Facebook post from a friend of a friend. Here is what inspired me:
Instead of walking out of school on March 14, encourage students to walk up — walk up to the kids who sits alone at lunch and invite him to sit with your group; walk up to the kids who sits quietly in the corner of the room and site next to her, smile and say Hi; walk up to the kid who causes disturbances in class and ask how he is doing; walk up to your teachers and thank them; walk up to someone who has different view that you and get to know them – you may be surprised at how much you have in common. Build own that foundation instead of casting stone. I challenge students to find 14 students and 3 adults to walk up to and say something nice in honor of those who died in (Parkland) FL on the 14th of February. But you can start practicing now! #walkupnotout
The controversy that led to my invitation to be on HLN started when I posted this on Twitter:
It seems almost unbelievable to me that we as a society would debate the importance of being kind. Unfortunately, the #WalkUp movement is often misunderstood and mischaracterized, sometimes purposely so. I’ve seen several attempts to label #WalkUp as “victim blaming” or misrepresenting the impact that being kind can have on a disaffected and potentially violent youth. Do I believe that the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas could have been stopped if the students had been more kind to him? Of course not. In meetings last week with the Director of the Secret Service and the head of the National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), apart of the Secret Service, I learned that there is a path along which disaffected & troubled youth travel called a “Continuum of Violence”. A few of the key findings & implications are:
Students who engaged in school-based attacks typically did not “just snap” and then engage in impulsive or random acts of targeted school violence. Instead, the attacks examined under the Safe School Initiative appeared to be the end result of a comprehensible process of thinking and behavior: behavior that typically began with an idea, progressed to the development of a plan, moved on to securing the means to carry out the plan and culminated in an attack.
An important element in preventing these attacks is information that can be provided by students. These are often key pieces of a puzzle when pieced together can aid school officials and law enforcement in stopping the attack.
First and foremost, this finding suggests that students can be an important part of prevention efforts. A friend or schoolmate may be the first person to hear that a student is thinking about or planning to harm someone. Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons, those who have information about a potential incident of targeted school violence may not alert an adult on their own. Schools can encourage students to report this information in part by identifying and breaking down barriers in the school environment that inadvertently may discourage students from coming forward with this information. Schools also may benefit from ensuring that they have a fair, thoughtful and effective system to respond to whatever information students do bring forward. If students have concerns about how adults will react to information that they bring forward, they may be even less inclined to volunteer such information.
By fostering an atmosphere of kindness as embodied in the #WalkUp movement, imagine the impact a student may have after having befriended a troubled classmate and felt if that student felt comfortable sharing that information with an adult. It is not the responsibility of the student to intervene, just to share information, their piece of the puzzle, a piece that could ultimately stop an act of violence before it starts.
Several key findings point to the fact that kids send signals–both directly and indirectly–to others regarding their problems. The boys who engaged in the targeted school violence examined by the Safe School Initiative were not “invisible” students. In fact nearly all of these students engaged in behaviors–prior to their attacks–that caused concern to at least one person, usually an adult, and most concerned at least three people.
This finding highlights the range of behaviors in a student’s life that may be noticeable and that could prompt some additional probing by a caring adult. A student’s family, teachers, friends and others may have information regarding aspects of a student’s behavior that has raised concern.
So, #WalkUp can help change the school culture and create an environment of trust and safety as well enabling the sharing of vital information that could help protect students and teachers at school. If the #WalkUp effort is done early enough on that continuum, a life can be changed in a positive way forever. I’d say it’s worth more than a try.
If you’d like to read more about the research Secret Service has done on making our schools safer, you can find it here: THE FINAL REPORT AND FINDINGS OF THE SAFE SCHOOL INITIATIVE (pdf)
Our daughter Alaina Petty attended Wilder Elementary when we live in the Seattle area. Mrs. Tavener, one of Alaina’s teachers at Wilder Elementary, heard about our call for kindness in the wake of Alaina’s death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As a family, we believe that creating a culture of kindness and inclusion in our schools is vital in stopping the threat of school violence and keeping our children & teachers safe. This is what Mrs. Tavener had to say about the Day of Kindness.
“A Day of Kindness” was enjoyed at Wilder Elementary, School on Wednesday, March 14th. This school-wide theme was chosen to promote compassion and enhance a sense of belonging for all our students and community. Everyone at school was encouraged to wear blue to represent kindness and show unity. Teachers and other school staff were outside that morning greeting students as they arrived via car drop-off and from the busses. The extra smiles, waves, and hugs went a long way to establish a positive start to our day. Here are a few other examples of activities that focused on kindness.
A school-wide read-aloud was enjoyed by each class. The school principals, counselor, and office staff went into each classroom as a guest reader of the book, Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed. This wonderful picture book illustrates how a small act of kindness leads to more and more acts of kindness. A special video was also created featuring students from all grade levels speaking their own ideas and examples of kindness.
A patchwork art project was started by a second-grade class where students drew and wrote about examples of kindness. Together their paper squares created a beautiful kindness quilt display in the hallway. This project was inspired by the book, The Kindness Quilt. The book was then passed along to other classes who were invited to add to the kindness quilt in the hallway. Our display keeps growing just like kindness does.
First graders started a Tree of Kindness by writing acts of kindness on green paper leaves and hearts. These are hung on a giant paper tree in the school hallway. Leaves are being added as more students notice or think of new acts of kindness. What a wonderful visual to illustrate the idea that kindness grows and spreads!
2nd Grade Teacher
Wilder Elementary School
UPDATED 23-Mar-2018: All families have now had an opportunity to sign the letter. See updated link below.
Once again, the families of the victims of the senseless violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School unite in support of legislation to improve school safety and ensure this time will be different! #STOP School Violence Act
March 16, 2018
The Honorable Senator Mitch McConnell
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
The Honorable Senator Chuck Schumer
322 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
The Honorable Representative Paul Ryan
H-232, The US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Representative Nancy Pelosi
H-204, The US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Senators McConnell & Schumer, Representatives Ryan & Pelosi,
We are the families of the victims killed in the tragedy in Parkland, FL on February 14, 2018. We strongly urge you to support the inclusion of the STOP School Violence Act and the Fix NICS ACT in the upcoming Omnibus spending bill to be debated and ultimately voted on in both chambers.
At the Federal level the STOP School Violence Act is a first step in a long journey to improve the safety of our children and teachers at school. This Act will make schools safer by funding the creation of and providing training for Threat Assessment Teams (TATs), teachers and students. It also includes security measures and provides for the creation of anonymous reporting systems. All of which will help make schools safer.
The Fix NICS Act is desperately needed to improve compliance with firearms purchasing background check systems which are already in place. These are systems that all US citizens rely on to keep firearms away from those that should not be allowed to purchase them.
Frankly, much more needs to be done to prevent mass murder from ever again occurring at any school. This issue cannot wait. The moment to consider these key pieces of legislation is now.
We must be the last families to suffer the loss of a loved one due to a mass shooting at a school. We demand more action to keep our schools safe.
This Time Must Be Different!
Lori Alhadeff, Max Schachter, Ryan & Kelly Petty, Linda Beigel Schulman, Fred Guttenberg, Damian and Denise Loughran, Manuel and Patricia Oliver, Mitch Dworet, Jennifer and Tony Montalto, Kong Feng Wang and Peter Wang, Andrew Pollack, Tom and Geena Hoyer, Vincent and Anne Ramsay, Miguel Duque, Debbi Hixon, April Schentrup, and Melissa Feis
March 14, 2018
I will read a short statement from the families, and then I will begin my personal statement.
We, the families of the amazing children and teachers killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, would like to recognize the first responders who were witnesses that day to an unspeakable evil. Many acted heroically, putting themselves in harm’s way, and saved many lives that day. Thank you.
To the caring & gracious people of the cities of Parkland & Coral Springs, the citizens of our home state of Florida and those across America who have shown support for us in our time of sorrow and loss, we can only say, thank you. Please know that your kindness and support is deeply appreciated, and has made a lasting impact on our lives.
As families, we came from different backgrounds, and we hold a variety of viewpoints; yet we united around this simple idea: our children and teachers should be safe at school. We rallied to the battle cry: This time must be different!
We implored our state leaders, and specifically the Florida Legislature, to take action.
We came together to build on common ground, and we made history in Florida by passing legislation to achieve the first step in just three weeks. It was a good start, but it is not enough – there is much more to be done.
Now my personal statement.
In a season of loss, it is difficult to find meaning in tragedy. The senseless murder of so many — including my own beloved daughter Alaina — tests the limits of faith, and demands more endurance than we thought possible. It is a test abruptly forced on us, and we bear it as best we can.
Each of us — mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives of those lost and loved — strive to find that meaning. I believe we will be seeking it to the end of our days. However, our abiding faith tells us that our Father in Heaven has a plan. Although the loss of our daughter Alaina, was to us unforeseen, it was not a surprise to Him. This gives us comfort during this difficult time.
Our knowledge that at the end, when we each return to see our God, as we most surely will, He will grant us a full understanding — that when we see His face, we will, at long last, see the faces of our loved ones, taken from us too soon.
We will not know what all this means until that time.
But we know what this thing that has happened does not mean:
It does not mean evil will triumph.
It does not mean we may do nothing.
It does not mean we should turn against one another.
We must not struggle over ashes in the shadow of our grief.