After the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, families of the 17 victims echoed a common refrain: There were warning signs—but they were missed.
This scenario is tragically common. According to a 2004 federal study examining school violence over three decades, at least one person had information that a school shooter was planning an attack in 81 percent of school shootings. In more than half of the incidents, more than one person knew. Over 70 percent of middle and high school students and school staff have witnessed bullying. And eighty percent of people who’ve completed suicide told another person about their plans.
A new violence-prevention program rolling out across Pennsylvania teaches kids and adults how to recognize warning signs—especially on social media—from kids who may be a threat to themselves or others and to say something before it’s too late. Similar programs utilizing the same software have previously been introduced in Nevada, Oregon and Colorado.
Safe2Say Something (S2SS) is a multiplatform tip line administered through a partnership between the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General and Sandy Hook Promise that will be implemented at middle and high schools statewide. Here’s what parents, teachers and students should know.
It’s completely anonymous. Tipsters aren’t required to share their name, phone number or any other identifying information.
It’s available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For ease of use, S2SS allows tipsters to submit reports on three platforms: online, through a mobile app and by calling the crisis hotline at 1-844-SAF2SAY. The frequency of tips is expected to dip in the summer, but that doesn’t mean no one is available to take them. Team members are on-call around the clock, year-round.
Training is being provided to school staff and students. The S2SS program will be implemented in middle and high schools throughout the commonwealth, for students in grades 6 to 12. School districts have begun training key personnel, including principals and school counselors, in the process of receiving and triaging tips, while students are building awareness of signals to watch out for. Though they won’t be formally trained, parents and other community members are encouraged to report threats as well.
Tips are processed quickly. If all necessary information is available, it can take up to three minutes to reach the school or district. The minimum information required is a description of the incident or concern, who is involved and the address or current location of the individuals involved.
False tips are rare. Based on the outcomes of similar programs on a national scale, S2SS organizers anticipate that less than half of 1 percent of the tips received will be false accusations.
The bottom line: “If it makes you uncomfortable, submit a tip.” Any student who has witnessed a threatening post on social media, or who has reason to believe a peer will harm themselves or is being abused at home, shouldn’t hesitate to report their concerns. Their school’s S2SS team will take it from there.