Walt Disney joins Sandy Hook-inspired school social program

FeaturesAssociated Press

The Walt Disney Co. will help expand a national educational program developed in response to the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a related organization announced Thursday.

Sandy Hook Promise, whose founders include the parents of some of the children killed in the Newtown shooting, said Disney will help fund and further develop its Start With Hello program.

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It is a curriculum that promotes inclusion and combats social isolation among elementary school students by teaching kids how to reach out to children who feel marginalized and let them know that they are seen and valued.

Disney will help underwrite both the development of the curriculum and a digital platform that can be used in the elementary schools, the organization said.

"Elementary schools are the perfect setting for this training, which focuses on inclusion and looking out for one another," said Nicole Hockley, a co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan Hockley, one of the 20 children killed along with six educators in the Sandy Hook school shooting. "We believe that the earlier we can tackle social isolation and create connectivity among students, the more we will empower students to be upstanders in the future."

Disney and Sandy Hook Promise declined to say how much money the company is donating.

The program will be available to schools at no cost, and the program is expected to train 2.8 million students and adults in 6,000 schools and youth organizations in the program's first three years.

The Newtown shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, spent long stretches of time isolated in his mother's home and had psychiatric ailments that went without treatment, according to investigators, who never pinpointed a motive for the shooting.