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New PSA launched to encourage teens to speak out about violence

Published: May. 30, 2022 at 6:48 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As mass shootings have become more frequent, communication with teens has never been more important. It’s why parents like Keshia Greene say she does their best to keep an open line of dialogue with children.

“At that age, they’re soaking up everything around them,” Greene said. “We’ve implemented texting. If there’s something we need to talk about, but you don’t want to talk face to face - text that to me, and then we’ll text back, and we can communicate that way. As long as we have an open line somehow, some way.”

The Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety also knows the value of communication. Since the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Donna Michaelis with the VCSCS says the state has been refocusing efforts to improve the state threat assessment systems within schools.

“It’s really important that when a student has that gut feeling that something is wrong with my friend or this person I go to school with, their behavior is different, or they’re posting things that are concerning, they’re saying things that are concerning, to get that information to a trusted adult,” Michaelis said.

This is why VCSCS has partnered with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services to create a viral video campaign known as OK2SpeakOut with the goal to let kids and teens know that it’s OK to speak out when they believe something may be wrong in school. Michaelis also says state agencies are trying to reach teens where they are, so the videos have been launched through TikTok, YouTube, and other social media channels so that teens are more likely to watch them.

“Students talk with their friends, and they’re the ones who share these interment details with one another, and they’re also on social media all the time,” Michaelis said. This is about coming forward when they see another student threatening harm to others, and reporting concerning behavior so we can again interrupt the cycle of violence and keep the perpetrator from causing harm to others, get services to them, but also keep them from harming others.”

Greene watched the PSA and believes it’s a step in the right direction, but she also says she wants to see more effort to ensure those plans are actually implemented in schools.

According to the state’s threat assessment plan, people with concerns should notify school administrators, teachers, or law enforcement about the nature of the concerns, which will initiate a fact-finding process. From there, more information is gathered about the subject. That information is then reviewed to determine whether the individual poses a threat. Finally, a plan is created to respond to the threat and reduce the risk of harm.

For more information about the state threat assessment plan click HERE.

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