The Aledo ISD board of trustees unanimously approved the implementation of a violence-prevention program that will begin next week to help connect and include all students in the district.

“In November of 2018, the School Health Advisory Council, also known as SHAC, approved the district-wide implementation of a violence-prevention program called Start With Hello. This program was made available through a non-profit organization called the Sandy Hook Promise. The Sandy Hook Promise was founded by and is still today led by parents of children who were killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012,” AISD Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Amber Crissey said. “The Start With Hello program is intended to provide school-wide awareness about the importance of all children being connected with and included at school. It is built as a violence prevention program under the belief that when kids are connected and included, kids are far less likely to commit violent acts.”

The board approved a proclamation to designate Sept. 23-27 as National Start With Hello Week and several activities are planned for students.

“The activities at the campuses of the launch will include mix-it-up lunches; special videos and announcements provided by Sandy Hook Promise; and classroom less, which will include videos and discussions from students,” Crissey said. “This message will be delivered by counselors and teachers and conversation starter scripts will be available in the lunchrooms, kindness pledges will be shared with students, there will be recess challenges to make a new friend each day at recess and many more additional activities.”

SHAC member and AISD parent Jennifer Cheak discussed why she felt the program was important to implement.

“I thought if implementing this program in Aledo ISD helps keep our children safe, then why not? Even if we only reach one kid, we’ve already started a successful mission,” Cheak said. “I know within our discussions in our group they talked about the redundancy of certain programs and all I could think about in our meeting about such a serious issue was to let these kids hear more and more about inclusiveness and the importance of reaching out to those friends when they’re little — make a new friend at recess, sit by somebody else — you never know how that can make an impact on a child. I think it can do a lot of good. I have two young kids in Aledo ISD and I love it, but it is a worry of mine every day.”

Crissey said the ultimate goal is to connect students in the district.

“We really thought it would be something great for our kids,” Crissey said. “Many of our kids just don’t know any strategies for walking up to that child that might be sitting alone, and it’s not that they don’t want to, but they need those strategies.”

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