Sandy Hook shooting victim's parent brings gun violence prevention program to East Texas

Sandy Hook shooting victims mom brings program to help prevent school shootings to East Texas
Updated: May. 22, 2018 at 6:57 PM CDT
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TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Just five years ago, 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The mother of one those children who died is now working to help prevent other parents from experiencing the same grief.

December 14, 2012, changed Scarlett Lewis' life forever. She recalls not being able to find her son Jesse in the chaos and writing his name on the list of those missing.

Six-year-old Jesse Lewis was among those killed by Adam Lanza.

"Jesse had directed his classmates to run and had been instrumental in saving nine of their lives, and I was not surprised," Lewis said.

Words that Jesse left behind on their refrigerator inspired Lewis to form the "Jessie Lewis Choose Love Movement."

"So you are literally teaching kids how to manage disputes, how to manage their emotions," Lewis said. "We all have emotions, but we need to learn how to identify them."

Jesse left behind the phrase 'nurturing healing love.' Lewis says studying those words in the dark days after the Newtown mass shooting led her to realize that identifying emotions and improving social skills could be key to preventing mass shootings.

Now, Lewis is partnering with the University of Texas at Tyler to bring Jesse's program to East Texas.

"Partnering with local school districts and really facilitating change like this is hugely influential," UT Tyler SEL committee chair Brian McKenzie said.

The program is free for East Texas educators and is offered across the country and around the world.

"Several years ago, character lessons were built into the everyday curriculum, and I feel like we have dropped the ball on that," Winona 4th grade teacher Rachel Moore said. "While academics are so important, we can just completely not touch base of social and emotional learning."

Lewis points to the results of a study by the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission that found learning social and emotional skills improved a person's mental and behavioral health.

"We need to proactively prevent these school shootings by doing what we know is in the best interest of every child, which is social and emotional learning," Lewis said.

Scarlett Lewis will be in Tyler on May 29, where she will host a seminar at the UT Tyler University Center theater at 6 p.m.

The event is free and the public is welcome to attend. Lewis will be discussing social and emotional learning, how it works, and why it is important to implement in our schools.

She says this kind of teaching can help prevent school shootings like the ones in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas.

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