Student club advocates for safety program


Ashley Caceras-Sanchez

Students Crystal Castillo and Kayla Zamora-Nuñez place 392 white flags at the front of the school to create a memorial representing the lives lost to school shootings since the 1999 Columbine shooting.

Izaak Mireles, Online Web Manager

Guns are the leading cause of death in America with one out of 10 gun deaths ranging from the age of 19 and younger. In most cases, at least one other person knew of the attackers’ plan and didn’t report it in time.

Some students are unsure who to contact when they are worried about their friends or classmates exhibiting concerning behavior, and they are sometimes nervous about reporting it if they know their identity will become known. To address these problems, Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit organization, has worked to empower young people to “know the signs” and take meaningful actions in schools.

Senior Shaylene Ybarra said she thinks these programs are important for Akins right now.

“Because it’s going to protect not only the students but staff, faculty, everyone from different like violent threats,” she said. “Or the drug abuse on campus or saving students from their own mental health.”

Since the beginning of this school year, law teacher Carlos Garcia has guided his students to learn more about Sandy Hook Promise and encourage them to form a Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) Club. The SAVE club is now taking action by spreading the word about Sandy Hook Promise’s programs, including an anonymous reporting app that they would like to bring to Akins.

The Say Something app allows students to report behaviors that could lead to someone hurting themselves or others. It teaches individuals how to safely report these signals and potential threats and provides tools to help promote and reinforce the training.

Skylar Hawn said that the app is a good way to report mental health concerns about fellow students who are in need of help.

“This program is really awesome because not only do we have the steps in order to prevent violence from happening in schools, but we also have the steps to intervene when violence does inevitably occur in schools,” Hawn said. “And we’re at the point where we don’t just need prevention. We also need the intervention.”
She said that they already have the approval of Akins Principal Michael Herbin and Austin ISD police chief Wayne Sneed to move forward with using the app. Hawn said the SAVE Club intends to speak at an upcoming school board meeting to ask for its approval of using the app.

Garcia said that the Sandy Hook Promise organization employs professionals to screen and filter false reports. When reports are deemed credible, they are forwarded to a counselor, an administrator, or Ausin ISD police, depending on what is said in the report.

On Dec. 9, SAVE Club members placed 392 white flags in the ground in front of Akins for a memorial that represents all of the lives lost in school shootings since the Columbine shooting in 1999. Additional flags were placed around the memorial to represent the families and loved ones of those affected by school shootings.
On Dec. 14, SAVE Club members made a speech on the school intercom to inform Akins students about problems related to mental health and gun violence. This is just one part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness about Sandy Hook Promise’s prevention programs.

In January, the club plans to start a “Start With Hello” program in which students will be asked to participate in activities where students will learn how to watch out for one another. They’re caring for one another. Basically, being much more inclusive and caring. So becoming much more aware.

Regardless of whether the reporting app is approved, the SAVE Club intends to implement as many of the Sandy Hook Promise prevention programs at Akins as possible.

“If we don’t get approval to get the app, you can still do a Say Something Awareness program, in the school in the classes led by teachers and students like these kids, where we’re just making kids aware of what to look for, for mental health issues and these kinds of things,” Garcia said.

SAVE Club members have big hopes for the potential of the program, and they hope to help other Austin ISD campuses start their own clubs and advocate for the same kinds of prevention programs at their campuses.