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Program teaches children how to spot troubling warning signs with their peers

(CBS) - Gun violence at schools has districts across the country looking into ways to protect students. A program teaches children how to spot troubling warning signs with their peers.

Seventh-grade students at John H Walker middle school in Nutley, New Jersey, are learning how to spot a potential school shooter. “I think it’s necessary, it’s kind of an important topic,” says seventh-grader Evan Petrov.

Sandy Hook Promise, formed after the Newtown Connecticut Massacre, offers the “Say Something” program to middle and high schools across the country at no cost.

"There is a lot of stuff going on in schools today," says training manager Sara Militello. She says the goal is to teach kids to spot warning signs when someone may be at risk of harming themselves or others. “We can empower them to say something and speak up,” she says.

Those signs include withdrawing from friends and school, bragging about guns, or suggesting self-harm or threats to others. Often those red flags can be seen on social media. Sandy Hook Promise says in four out of five school shootings, the attacker told people their plans ahead of time.

“This is why it's so important that we talk to students to recognize when someone needs help. Bring that to the trusted adult who has the experience and knowledge to get that person the help they need,” says Militello.

Nutley Anti-Bullying coordinator Joe Capello says the challenge is getting kids to speak up. “A lot of students are concerned that if they say something, they’re breaking their trust with their friend. But to me it's about it’s increasing your relationship with your friend because you’re concerned about their safety,” says Capello.

Students like 12-year-old Dean Turso say they’re getting the message. “It’s not snitching if you tell them what’s happening, because it can help a person,” he says .

Difficult conversations that are necessary and could save lives.

Sandy Hook Promise also offers an anonymous reporting system through a mobile app, hotline and websites.

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Mercedes Martinez

Mercedes Martinez joined the KSWT team as anchor/producer in October 2020. You can catch her on 13 On Your Side at 4:00pm.

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