PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Creating safer schools is the vision for some state leaders and parents who lost their children to gun violence.
“On Dec. 14, 2012, my son Daniel, 7, was shot to death in his first grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” said Mark Barden. “I do this work to honor him and prevent other families from living this pain.”READ MORE: Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank Sending Food To Louisiana To Help With Hurricane Relief
Barden says his life will never be the same, but now he’s on a mission to save innocent lives.
“Death by gun is the leading cause of death for children under the age 18,” said Barden. “It’s horrifying, and we have something that works.”
Barden co-founded Sandy Hook Promise to teach students and educators how to identify at-risk behaviors and seek help.
His organization also partnered with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s Safe2Say Something program.
“The most tangible way this makes a difference is students are trained and empowered and are handed a tool, so if that they’re thinking about hurting themselves or somebody else, they have a resource,” said Barden.
Students can submit an anonymous tip to Safe2Say Something.READ MORE: About 50 Bus Routes To Be Detoured For Rescheduled St. Patrick's Day Parade
Shapiro presented the program’s success at the conference.
“Since the program came online in January 2019, it has given a voice to more than 76,000 children in Pennsylvania who are looking for help,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro says urgent tips like suicide and self-harm skyrocketed during the pandemic.
“Bullying, self-harm, suicidal intentions, depression, drug use, they are the top five categories of tips we received since the launch,” said Shapiro.
This data has helped them as they educate thousands of students.
They trained nearly 400,000 during the pandemic alone.
“Students went to be part with the solution,” said Shapiro. “So we’ve engaged with them, we’ve learned from them, and most importantly, we have listened to them. If we bring them into these conversions and give them an outlet, we know we can achieve success.”MORE NEWS: Barrel And Flow Fest Calls For Boycott Of Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh, Alleges Racism
Shapiro and Barden hope this will help give children a childhood where violence doesn’t exist.