Pico Rivera, CA – On Friday morning, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn and LA County Department of Mental Health Director Lisa Wong, Psy.D., unveiled a new campaign to prevent school shootings and school violence. The new education campaign features social media ads and in-school posters to encourage high school students to contact the County Department of Mental Health’s School Threat Assessment Response Team (START) if they witness concerning or threatening behavior by a fellow student.
The START program consists of mental health professionals who work with schools and law enforcement and respond to calls about concerning behavior that could potentially lead to school violence. When contacted about a student who might pose a threat to themselves or others, the team comes in to assess the level of risk and provide targeted intervention to the student.
Up until now, however, trainings and advertisement of the START program has been aimed at teachers, school administrators, and other school staff. Studies have shown that many youth who commit acts of violence at school discuss or mention their plans beforehand, often on social media and to other students. Targeted intervention can successfully prevent violence, and it is important that programs like START are informed about early warning signs.
“If one of our students witnesses something that doesn’t feel right, they need to know there is someone they can call who can step in and help,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “We are blanketing social media with these ads so we can reach as many LA County students as possible with this information.”
The new campaign unveiled by Supervisor Hahn and Director Lisa Wong on Friday morning at a press conference the El Rancho Youth Center in Pico Rivera aims to reach high school students with information about START.
The campaign includes a video PSA, ads that will run on popular websites like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitch and Facebook, and posters that have been distributed to more than 200 schools countywide. The campaign’s tagline, “If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t,” was developed through focus groups with local students.
“The START Campaign hopes help students recognize that when something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. This campaign empowers students to make a difference in their lives, and the lives of fellow students who may be on a path to violence, but could benefit from services and intervention,” said Dr. Lisa H. Wong, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. “Studies have shown that many youth who commit acts of violence at school either discuss or mention their plans beforehand, often to other students and on social media. And studies have shown that by providing early intervention services to students who are posing threats, students’ outcomes can be positively impacted by connecting them to services and providing the support needed to succeed. By speaking directly to young people, the campaign encourages direct referrals to START from them when they recognize concerning behaviors by fellow students.”
The campaign’s PSA features a real student named Mia Tretta who survived a shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita in 2019. Mia’s best friend, Dominic Blackwell, was shot and killed. Since the shooting, Mia has become a passionate anti-gun violence activist.
The $547k campaign is funded through MHSA funds.
START Student Outreach Campaign Materials: