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Fairfield schools hone in on violence prevention

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Posted at 6:07 PM, Nov 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-24 18:07:33-05

FAIRFIELD, Ohio -- Fairfield students are being encouraged to speak up as part of the Fairfield City School District’s most recent efforts to combat violence.

District officials recognized Oct. 19 through 23 as Say Something Week, along with more than 200 other schools across the country. Say Something is one of four prevention programs offered through nonprofit organization Sandy Hook Promise. The organization was created by family members whose loved ones were killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

The week-long Say Something event began with a proclamation reading during the district’s October school board meeting.

“Initiatives like these help promote many of the activities already in place in our schools,” said School and Community Relations Director Gina Gentry-Fletcher in an email. “We instill in the students character traits that include respect, honesty and problem-solving to name just a few.”

Say Something Week is geared toward kids 10 and older and is intended to raise awareness about violence – particularly gun violence – in schools. In seven of 10 acts of gun violence, at least one person has been told that violence would be committed, according to the Sandy Hook Promise website. The website also states that in four out of five school shootings, attackers told people of their plans.

During Say Something Week, students and administrators at five Fairfield schools read statements over the morning announcements encouraging students to say something if they hear threats of violence.

In addition to preventing violence, the week’s events focused on using positivity to build kids up. Students at Fairfield Intermediate School were recommended to write notes of encouragement and stick them on classmates’ lockers. Students also were encouraged to wear orange on Wednesday of that week to show that they are united against bullying.

The Say Something program was piloted in Columbus in 2014. The program was implemented in Fairfield schools this year – nearly a year after Fairfield Middle School student Emilie Olsen ended her own life, allegedly due to bullying.

“We actually have been in contact and conversation with the Sandy Hook Promise group well before this happened with that student,” Gentry-Fletcher said. “This is just a continuation of programs that we have that we’re doing to prevent bullying or any type of issues a student may have that doesn’t make their school life a successful one or a satisfying one.”

This isn’t the first Sandy Hook Promise prevention program Fairfield schools have taken part in.

“We’ve been working with Fairfield schools on other programs as well,” said Nicole Hockley, managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan Hockley, who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting.

The district also participated in No One Eats Alone Day in February and recently sent 130 educators to Sandy Hook Promise’s Youth Mental Health First Aid Training.

Sandy Hook Promise representatives reached out to the Fairfield City School District and other Butler County districts in July to share Say Something program information. Organization members have been working with school and public safety officials to promote Promise Communities around the state, Gentry-Fletcher said.

“(We’re) teaching kids to be upstanders and really foster that culture of looking out for each other,” Hockley said.

School officials can register and download Say Something training materials through the Sandy Hook Promise website or request for a trainer to deliver the training to the school.