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New program available for anonymous reporting

January 25, 2019

In the wake of numerous mass shootings at schools and other public places, a new state-funded program is aimed at helping to stop the problem before it starts.

The Safe2Say Something program officially went into effect Jan. 14 in all Pennsylvania schools. The program, which is funded through the state attorney general’s office, allows students, parents and others to report startling behavior anonymously through an app, hotline or website. The tips are then assessed by a state team to evaluate the seriousness, and, if found credible, can be forwarded to school officials and law enforcement.

“Pennsylvania students deserve a safe place to learn, free from the threat of violence from classmates or other individuals,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said earlier this week in a press release. “I’m proud my office was entrusted by the legislature to run this new program focused on school safety. Working together with local law enforcement and school officials, we can make Pennsylvania safer for families, teachers and, most importantly, our students.”

Somerset Area School District Superintendent Krista Mathias said the idea behind the program is to be able to intervene with students who pose a harm to themselves or others.

Mathias said Safe2Say can allow law enforcement, school authorities and the tip reporter to all communicate online to work any problem out.

“It’s really an effective way to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together,” she said. “Our job would be to get the pieces.”

She said that when reporting, a person can remain anonymous but must indicate a connection to the situation, such as being a parent or a friend.

The program is being rolled out in partnership with Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit founded by family members who lost loved ones in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. In that shooting, 20 children and six adults were killed at the Connecticut school.

Mathias said so far Somerset hasn’t received any tips, but after some more training, that may change. She said she doesn’t think malicious reporting will be a problem.

“This isn’t for small concerns,” she said. “These are for concerns that could lead to someone hurting themselves or others.”

Shade-Central City High School Principal Sean Wechtenhiser said that students in grades six through 12 will receive training on the program today.

Wechtenhiser said it is too early to know how implementation is going.

“Quite honestly,” he said, “as far as implementation goes, we’re starting (today) with our students being trained and then parent training after that.

“I went to the training and with it still in the early stages, it’s kind of early to see.”

He said it is positive that Safe2Say gives students and parents another outlet for reporting.

Rockwood Area School District Superintendent Mark Bower said that since last summer the district has had its own internal online reporting system. Bower said that Safe2Say goes a step further, bringing law enforcement into the equation.

“This is more thorough because it involves law enforcement, if needed,” he said. “So it adds a layer of protection, I think, and response.”

Bower, like Wechtenhiser, said time will tell on the program’s success.

“For us to be able to judge the effectiveness of it, we’ll probably have to wait until we get a call into it and us having to respond,” he said.

At Somerset, Mathias said the most important aspect of Safe2Say is student and staff safety.

“Anything that can be done to prevent school violence or a student from hurting themselves or others is a step in the right direction,” she said.

Since being launched a week ago, Safe2Say has received 615 tips statewide with several hundred being referred to law enforcement, according to a press release Thursday from Shapiro’s office. The program has been implemented in 3,774 public and private schools in the state.

For more information or to report a concern, go to www.safe2saypa.org. To report over the phone call 844-723-2729.

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