School safety is a topic on everyone’s minds these days, what with school shootings and the fact that suicide is now the second leading cause of death for 10- to 24-year-olds. Thankfully, there are tools to help in a variety of ways.
Teaching Tolerance, found at tolerance.org, and a product of the Southern Poverty Law Center, provides free resources for K-12 educators, and emphasizes social justice and anti-bias, on topics related to race & ethnicity, religion, ability, social class, immigration, gender & sexual identity, bullying & bias, and rights & activism. The anti-bias approach “encourages children and young people to challenge prejudice and learn how to be agents of change in their own lives.” The materials have won two Oscars, an Emmy and scores of other honors. In addition to classroom resources, the site offers professional development tools such as workshops, webinars, and facilitator guides, and you can use the site to create and save a learning plan.
Several tools are available to alert school staff and law enforcement authorities of possible incidents of violence or suicide.
Gaggle software (www.gaggle.net) works with Google Suite for Education and Microsoft Office 365 to automatically monitor student files, email, attachments, and website links for references to drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, violence, self-harm, hate speech, pornography, and more, and alert school authorities of the same. According to Gaggle’s website, Gaggle does not monitor social media, but if the student uses a school email address to create a social media account, and the social media account flags the student’s post, this flag will be captured by Gaggle. The cost of Gaggle depends on how many students will be using it.
Enabling students to report concerns without fear of reprisal is very powerful. The Anonymous Safety and Bullying Reporting system is a helpful app for this, and is free to use for school districts. The tips go to school administrators or counselors.
There are also several websites which capture anonymous tips:
- SaySomething.net is a youth violence prevention program from Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) a national, nonprofit organization.
- WeTip Anonymous Crime Reporting Hotline (wetip.com) provides intelligence and information to local, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies relating to criminal activity obtained from an online and telephone crime reporting hotline. It includes an anonymous tip line for schools and education at wetip.com/anonymous-school-tip-line/.
- OK2Say (www.michigan.gov/ok2say/ ) is available for public and private schools in Michigan. Specially trained technicians receive the tips and filter the information to the appropriate agency to provide a timely and effective response. Schools are encouraged to biannually update the school official’s emergency after-hours contact information; complete an Outcome Report for each tip the school receives; order free promotional material, and sign up for the OK2SAY newsletter and download the app.
- Safe2Say Something (safe2saypa.org) is is a youth violence prevention program run by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. The program teaches youth and adults how to recognize warning signs and signals, especially within social media, from individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others and to “say something” BEFORE it is too late. With Safe2Say Something, it’s easy and confidential to report safety concerns to help prevent violence and tragedies.
While anonymous tip lines are a powerful tool for preventing tragedy, students should be taught that false reports to police, particularly false 911 calls, are dangerous for all. “Swatting,” the high-stakes prank of making a false police report with the intention of luring law enforcement to someone’s residence, can lead to the death of people at the residence, and to prison time for the person filing the false report, as described in this news article.