To help students prevent violence, an anonymous reporting system is coming to the SF | New


An administrator chats with students having lunch at Martin Luther King Jr. University Middle School in February. In response to an increase in school shootings, the school district is introducing a new anonymous reporting tool for students to help prevent violence.

if you see something, say something.

Originally coined by New York advertising executive Allen Kay on September 12, 2001, the phrase is used to report suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities in a post-11 America. september.

In response to the increase in school shootings, the phrase has now made its way into the classroom. And soon, it will make its way to the San Francisco Unified School District in the form of the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation’s Anonymous Reporting System, or ARS.

The Sandy Hook Promise Foundation is a national non-profit organization founded by parents who lost their children to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter on December 14, 2012.

To teach middle and high school students to recognize the warning signs of someone at risk of harming themselves or others and to seek help, Sandy Hook Promise launched the Say Something program in late 2014. The program – which teaches students to empathize with others and seek help as well as identify and solve problems – can be incorporated into any school’s existing social-emotional learning curriculum.

Nicole Hockley, co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise, said students in the program appreciate the new skills, but some worry that identifying at-risk students will get them in trouble. In response, the foundation created the Say Something anonymous reporting system, which allows students to report at-risk peers or themselves around the clock via an app, hotline or website.

Say something to SFUSD

In the fall, 40 schools serving grades six through 12 will adopt the Sandy Hook Promise ARS at no cost to the district.

Currently, the district has “Coordinated Care Teams” at each school that work to support students and families. In another initiative, 19 high schools in San Francisco also have wellness centers for students to discuss personal crises, including depression, grief, self-esteem, family life, stress, dating violence, gender identity and gang involvement.

“We actively work to cultivate trusting relationships in schools and want to make sure students know they can always speak to a teacher, principal or other adult at their school. However, we know that some students feel more comfortable sharing anonymously, especially if they are scared or upset,” Superintendent Vincent Matthews said in a May 27 press release on the Say Something app. “Give students a system to Reporting an issue anonymously is another way to give them the opportunity to ask for help.”

Although the announcement came hot on the heels of the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the San Francisco District has been planning the system’s launch since spring 2021. In January, participating schools began creating teams of people trained to respond to Sandy Hook’s advice. Promise crisis advisers. More recently, students were trained in the use of the reporting app, a process that will continue in the fall.

Using the system, students can report anything from school threats to personal crises. While there is a one-way tip form on the Sandy Hook Promise website, students can chat in real time with a crisis counselor through the app or hotline.

First Responders

Currently, the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation’s 3-year-old National Crisis Center is staffed with 10 crisis counselors who monitor the Say Something ARS app, website, and hotline 24/7. 7.

These 10 crisis counselors — who are certified in suicide prevention and crisis management — are responsible for responding to messages from 5,500 schools nationwide, which serve approximately 3 million students in 25 states.

Despite this large number of students, Sandy Hook Promise reports that counselor response time is immediate and counselors are able to keep up with tips as they don’t all arrive at the same time and vary by time zone.

In San Francisco, once the crisis counselor determines if a report is credible, they notify trained school representatives or law enforcement, depending on the severity and immediacy of the crisis.

“Any coordination with law enforcement will be in accordance with SFUSD administrative regulations and protocols which govern when and how schools may interact with law enforcement,” Matthews said in the press release. “As per SF School Board policy, schools may request the assistance of on-campus police as necessary to protect the physical safety of students and staff; as required by law; or, where appropriate, to combat the criminal behavior of persons other than students. »

The need for further research

A 2022 University study by the University of Michigan School of Public Health on the effectiveness of anonymous reporting systems found that zero-tolerance policies and heightened security measures in schools have reinforced a “code of silence” among students and that any strategies that help combat this silence, such as as an ARS, could be vital in preventing school violence.

According to Washington Posta secret service 2019 analysis of targeted violence at school revealed that in 83% of the 41 incidents studied, the perpetrators had made prior verbal, written, visual or video communications about their plans. In keeping with the “code of silence”, however, many of those who were aware of these communications did not act.

The University of Michigan study suggested that anonymous reporting systems could be used by students to report an impending threat without fear of consequences, giving schools and law enforcement time to stop the violence before it starts. Systems can also provide a place for students and parents to report behavioral or mental health issues in their peers, their children, or themselves, some of which may be precursors to violence.

However, an anonymous system also presents challenges. For example, a lack of identifying information could inhibit responders’ ability to track and act in a timely manner. It could also increase the rate of false advice, although Hockley said only about 0.5% of the advice his organization’s ARS receives is not credible.

Although the University of Michigan study concluded that more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of these school violence prevention systems – so far four studies have been published on the ARS, and only one has been peer-reviewed — the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation reports she’s received more than 111,895 tips. Of these, more than 2,700 resulted in mental health intervention, at least 321 resulted in a life-saving suicide, and more than 80 indicated violent acts with a weapon that were subsequently prevented.

Nine of those 80 were planned school shootings.

Hockley said she and her colleagues at the foundation hoped that with their anonymous reporting system, students in San Francisco would be empowered to say something.


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