Visit the Sandy Hook Promise website and you’ll read the following: “I promise to do all I can to protect children from gun violence by encouraging and supporting solutions that create safer, healthier homes, schools and communities.”
On Monday when we visited sandyhookpromise.org, 3,513,231 people had made the promise.
That will only grow with the outreach of Sandy Hook Promise, which includes training offered that has already paid dividends in Kenosha County.
As Deneen Smith reported Sunday, about 200 people — including staff from every Kenosha Unified school, and Pleasant Prairie Police and prosecutors — went through training sessions conducted by Sandy Hook Promise early last month.
The program, created by academics along with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, focuses on prevention by helping people identify the warning signs that a young person could be contemplating harming themselves or others. The Sandy Hook foundation paid for the training.
Unified, along with its partner agencies and law enforcement, is the first school system in Wisconsin to complete the training. Last school year, 20 separate incidents in KUSD led to threat investigations; many of the threats were photos or statements posted on social media.
This unique Sandy Hook Promise training helped locally two weeks later when an investigation was launched into a case involving a LakeView Technology Academy senior posting a photo on social media of a man holding a rifle along with a comment about a shooting at the school.
Mikal Sexton, a Pleasant Prairie Police officer who is the school resource officer at LakeView, said because of the training, his investigation looked beyond identifying who made the post. “The training helps you identify threats, signs, behaviors that someone might actually commit a violent act,” he said.
Lauren Magnuson, 18, was charged last Thursday with disorderly conduct and making a terrorist threat — a felony that could lead to a prison sentence of up to 3½ years in prison.
According to the criminal complaint, she is alleged to have posted a photo of her older brother, a former LakeView student, holding a shotgun. Students who saw the post reported it to school staff. According to the complaint, Magnuson admitted to police she had posted the photo as “a joke and that she took the post down because she knew it was wrong.”
Investigators spoke to students, staff and family about the student’s history, looking for any past public or private threats, according to the criminal complaint. They also checked the girl’s journal and electronics, and checked for access to weapons. They found that she had no history of making violent threats, that she had no familiarity with guns and would not know how to operate one.
District Attorney Michael Graveley said in court that Magnuson and her family “took immediate steps to seek appropriate intervention” after the incident.
KUSD officials and law enforcement have tried to hammer home to students that when it comes to school shootings, there is no room for joking.
“Every time we send a message to families (about school threats), we are reiterating that this is pretty scary; please talk to your kids; this is a felony if you make a threat to harm or shoot up a school,” said Sue Valeri, chief of school leadership at Unified. “We reference the law constantly when we are working with kids on the (active shooter) drills.”
Graveley said he would like to see the Sandy Hook Promise training expand to school districts in western Kenosha County as well. We encourage it as time well spent for the safety of children.
“Everyone benefits from this being sorted out properly, from identifying those (threats) that are the least serious and those individuals who are on a trajectory that concerns us by catching that first threat,” Graveley said. “To me there is no downside to this.”