“Safe2Say Something”: Safer or Slower?

Making Strides? The

Making Strides? The "Safe 2 Say Something" program was introduced to public schools across Pennsylvania on January 14th, but is it really as helpful as it proclaims to be?

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On Monday, January 14th, the “Safe2Say Something” program (or S2SS) was launched among Pennsylvania public schools. Safe 2 Say Something is a student safety program that runs a 24/7 tip line for reporting at-risk behavior via app, website, or their crisis hotline. The program stems from the national violence prevention organization Sandy Hook Promise as a way to help school administrators and law enforcement identify and intervene with at-risk individuals before they are able to hurt themselves or others. Superintendent Dr. Angelucci, assistant superintendent Dr. Kardambikis, and our principal, Mr. Hake, went to Butler for training with representatives and administrators from western Pennsylvania along with people from the Sandy Hook Promise organization. The training was led by an expert on the app, who had everyone download the app to see how it worked. With the app, a student is able to send an anonymous tip about suspicious behavior that goes straight to Harrisburg. Once Harrisburg receives the tip, they determine the severity of the situation and sends out information to the correct districts and authorities.

Mr. Hake was kind enough to share how he feels about the program and how he believes it should be used. He said that he believes the outlet to communicate is positive, but he would much rather have a student report a concern either to the office or an adult because there’s more of a dialogue that way. He explained that the reports that are sent in are usually very vague, disallowing enough information to be given to him to determine exactly when and where the event happened. Getting follow up questions through the app is often very difficult as well.

“If you send me a [report], and I asked you a question [about it on the app], it’s just a matter of if you want to take the time to respond or not…by simply just putting [a report] in an app and sending it and then not being willing to follow up, you’ve only really done part of the step.”

What we’re doing is counting on people telling the truth, counting on people doing it for the right reason.”

— Mr. Hake

Along with this issue, there is also the problem of students making up a story about someone else and reporting it via the app, allowing completely innocent students to be on watch when they have done nothing suspicious at all. Hake acknowledged this exploit, but unfortunately, he said there’s no true way to prevent this.

“The state is intent on providing every reporter anonymity. That being said, they do have the ability to determine where a report came from, but they’ve said that they’re only going to do that in extreme cases because that’s not something they want to get into. So as long as a student has anonymity, there’s going to be the ability to lie.”

The only solution he could provide was just for people to be honest.

“What we’re doing is counting on people telling the truth, counting on people doing it for the right reason.”

“If you fear that someone could take their life tonight at home, let’s get someone to the house. But if you’ve got a rumor, and this was something that happened three months ago, and you’re just wanting to jump on the bandwagon, [that’s] not really appropriate. That’s going to put a cop at that kid’s house for no reason, and that’s going to create more problems than it’s worth.”

It’s easy and can [get things] done, but sometimes easy and done isn’t always effective.”

— Mr. Hake

While this should be the easy solution, our society is not fully equipped with honest people. Despite this, the low success rate actually encourages Hake in some way.

“If it saves one, then it’s worth all the others. But you still have to deal with the others,” said Hake.

Something that seems to be overlooked with this app is what it’s intentions are.

Hake explained that “What the app is for, and I think what we forget and where it can still be very helpful, are those life threatening incidences…Again, this goes straight to Harrisburg first. So somebody there has decided it’s a life threatening issue [and determines] ‘We’re not just going to send it out to the principal and let him decide, we’re going to call the state police and we’re going to have [them] go visit [the accused student’s] house and find out if there’s any truth to [the report]’.”

One of the biggest issues that arises out of the app is the ability for people to no longer intervene in a situation. As mentioned before, the app prevents any dialogue between a student and someone such as Mr. Hake, which makes students feel that they don’t have to be active as a observer, which is against what we were taught in middle school. However this takes that to a whole new level.

Hake voiced his fear by saying, “If we have a society of people who are willing to be actively engaged [in reporting something], that’s a positive thing. My fear with this is it kind of allows for inactivity.” Hake also had this to say to us students concerning that fear:  “We still need you to intervene when there’s opportunity. We still need you to tell an adult when there’s an opportunity. We still need you to come see an administrator if you’ve got details and specifics. You’re not being a rat if you’re protecting somebody. Don’t use the app for [minor instances], but use the app for what it was intended.”

My fear with this is it kind of allows for inactivity.”

— Mr. Hake

Overall, Hake’s opinion is somewhat positive, though he recognizes the difficulties and problems that are arising with “Safe2Say Something”.

“It’s easy and can [get things] done, but sometimes easy and done isn’t always effective…but if it’s truly the best way for a kid to communicate or a parent to get their message out, then it’s better than nothing.”

The Pennsylvania version of the app is obviously still in it’s development stage, so there are obviously a lot of issues that need to be taken care of. While it is a great idea to implement in our technology ridden world, the current human condition that is required to make it work is much more flawed than the technology that created it. People constantly try to put others down in this teenage wasteland, and this app allows for those people to put someone they don’t like on the state’s watch list.

Understandably, good will be, and already has been, done with this app, and therefore it is a success. However, this cannot overshadow the fact that the “Safe 2 Say Something” app is doing more harm than good. It prevents dialogue between students and administrators, allowing for the inactivity of students in harmful situations. And more importantly, it allows someone to lie about the actions of another student and land them in more than just detention.

As Mr. Hake stated, the only way we can improve these situations is for you, the student, to continue to take action in situations where you see someone being tormented or threatening to do something frighteningly dangerous to themselves or others. Unless you are in direct danger, speak up verbally when you see something happening, because you are already safe to say it.

Do you think students can benefit from the S2S app?

“In short, yes. The S2S app provides students with an option to report problematic situations around the clock. Often, students aren’t in school when situations arise and they aren’t sure what to do. The S2S app gives them a quick and easy way to make sure that a situation gets addressed by qualified people.”

— Mrs. Karwoski

Is the "Safe2Say Something" app beneficial to students?

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