Twenty years ago this week, two students walked into Columbine High School and killed 12 of their peers and one teacher.
Twenty-one others were injured.
After Columbine, and after the other school shootings that followed, there was talk about some of the shooters — quiet concerns brushed aside or subtle signs that they may have meant to do harm. Sometimes, we learned, there had been outright threats of violence made by them before the shootings occurred.
The Safe 2 Say Something program implemented earlier this year in Pennsylvania aims to give those concerns a voice.
Started in January and rolled out into all of the state’s public, private and charter schools, the program encourages confidential reporting about concerns.
Users have three options for reporting: a Safe 2 Say Something app that can be loaded onto mobile devices; the safe2saysomething website at www.safe2saypa.org; or the hotline phone number, 844-723-2729.
Anyone can send a tip to Safe 2 Say Something, and that information is funneled to the attorney general’s crisis center that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The crisis center and its operations are funded by the state attorney general’s office. Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit founded and led by several family members who loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, in 2012, has paid for the training and education.
When a tip is submitted, the crisis center reviews it and sends all submissions to school administrators and/or law enforcement for intervention.
In addition to working toward identifying potential sources of school violence, the Safe 2 Say Something program also offers an opportunity for students to report concerns about others they believe may engage in self-harm. The program reported 70% of those to commit suicide reveal their plans to another or gave some other warning sign.
Some local superintendents said they’ve received only a few tips from the program since it started; however, the attorney general’s office reported that in his first month and a half of operation, 7,070 tips came in.
Almost one-third of those were serious enough to warrant reporting to school officials and local police.
School administrators and police recognize there will be those who decide to make false reports to the system. So far, officials said, that has accounted for less than 1% of all of the tips received.
Perhaps our students have learned something. Last year was a terrible one, locally, for bomb and gun threats. Far too often, we found ourselves writing about a district dismissing early or canceling because one of those had occurred.
Our area district attorneys and police made it clear quickly that those disrupting classes in that manner would be prosecuted.
We are heartened to see that this year has produced far fewer of those threats.
While we all may wish that the need for such a program didn’t exist, the sad reality is that it does. Students hear regularly the importance of reporting their concerns.
Offering them another way to make a report, especially one they may make confidentially, could prompt them to offer up details about troubling behavior they see in their peers and prevent the senseless loss of more young lives.