On the anniversary of the Parkland, Florida school shooting massacre, Vermont’s governor joined with educators and public safety officials Thursday to announce a new program aimed at preventing such a tragedy in their state.
“What has happened elsewhere can happen here,” warned Don Tinney of the Vermont NEA, the union of Vermont educators.
The Vermont NEA is partnering with the administration of Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, to launch a contest asking middle and high schoolers statewide to create public service announcements for websites and the airwaves, promoting awareness and ways to report threats of school violence.
They’ll be similar in tone to a “See Something, Say Something” video campaign from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security urging youth to stay vigilant.
Organizers of the Vermont effort want teen video-makers to come up with 25- or 55-second projects encouraging peers to tell an adult if they see or hear anything suspicious, such as a classmate threatening violence or expressing a desire to harm themselves or others.
“Just stressing with them that it’s not tattling on someone,” school superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell of the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union said of a message to kids she’d like to see come from the campaign. “This is really about taking care of one another and making them feel secure.”
Olsen-Farrell’s district includes Fair Haven, one of three Vermont communities where public safety officials said kids were recently credited with stopping potential school shootings before they happened—along with Lyndon and Middlebury.
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In December, the Middlebury Police Department praised an attentive middle schooler, saying he reported hearing a classmate talking about planning to use a stolen gun to murder another kid and anyone who got in his way.
“I think we can all say it was a pretty brave student who was able to come forward and talk to the officers,” Detective Kris Bowdish of the Middlebury Police Department said on Dec. 19 of last year. “It definitely helped us to keep the school safe and the intended target safe.”
Scott said he hopes the PSA contest reminds everyone that community safety is a shared responsibility.
“My fear is that if we don’t continue to talk about this, and have these types of programs and make sure that students know they should say something if they see something, they’ll forget,” the governor said Thursday.
There are cash prizes for the top PSAs: $250, $500, and $1,000 to the winning schools’ video production programs.
The deadline for submissions to the contest is March 20. Students may submit their videos to the Vermont NEA website, which also provides more specifics on the contest.