Violence struck another American high school last week. On Wednesday April 9, a student in Murrysville, PA roamed the halls of his school stabbing fellow students.
On that same day, community leaders in Marshalltown, IA gathered in the Marshalltown High School gym as students presented what they had learned from new violence prevention trainings. Marshalltown is part of the Safe Schools, Healthy Students Initiative sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Education and Justice.
Marshalltown is also a Not In Our Town community and for the past two years has been implementing a Not In Our Town campaign to address bullying and intolerance, community-wide.
The anti-violence training at Marshalltown High School was provided by Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP). Thirty-seven students and staff members participated in the day-long sessions, learning ways to intervene in violence, including talking to the victim, talking to the perpetrator, going to trusted adults, diverting or delaying actions. After the training, students said they felt more comfortable knowing how to intervene during a conflict or bullying situation.
Mike Schlesinger, publisher of the Marshalltown Times Republican newspaper and one of the founders of the Not In Our Town movement there, reported, “The students felt the MVP training tied in well with the goals for NIOT and also said they felt NIOT, and now the MVP trainings, are helping make the school and our entire community a better, safer and more accepting community.”
As a testament to the school’s violence prevention efforts, at least one tragic incident has already been averted since the Not In Our Town campaign began. In early 2013, several students went to Principal Aiddy Phomvisay to alert him that one of their friends had threatened to bring a gun to school. They told the principal that they didn't want the student to hurt anyone, and they didn't want him to ruin his life. “We were able to get to the parents and get this student some help,” Phomvisay reported, “I know the Not In Our Town campaign is one reason these students trusted us enough to come forward.”
“I am extremely proud of our NIOT student leaders and teachers who voluntarily took on the training,” Phomvisay added. “It is yet another proactive example of our students taking the initiative to be a positive force in our school and community. Their leadership and devotion contributes to our school culture of great care and respect for all.”
Marshalltown has made a long-term commitment to their town and to their young people through the Not In Our Town campaign. Their actions are an inspiration to the country.