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Safe2Say program gets high grade after first review

Published October 01. 2019 12:19PM

The youth violence-prevention program run by the state Attorney General’s office has gotten rave reviews after its first six months in operation.

Safe2Say teaches young people and adults how to recognize — especially within social media — warning signs from individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others and to “say something” before it’s too late.

The Attorney General’s office released its first report card on the program since it was started on Jan. 14, and gave it a solid “A.” Being a former educator myself, I give it a very respectable A-minus, because there are still a few minor wrinkles which, like most fledgling programs, need to be worked out.

The report shows that more than 23,000 tips had been received through June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

“This report makes clear that Safe2Say Something has proven to be an extremely effective tool to report and prevent a variety of potentially harmful situations from affecting our students and schools,” said state Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, one of two legislators who co-sponsored the bill authorizing the program.

The other is Vincent Hughes, D-Montgomery and Philadelphia, who points out that the success of Safe2Say lies in a caller’s trust that they will remain anonymous and that their tip will be taken seriously and acted upon swiftly.

The law requires all of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts to participate in the program brought about by a collaborative partnership between the Attorney General’s office and the Sandy Hook Promise to build the app, website and operate and maintain the round-the-clock crisis center hotline.

Most of the tips — nearly 20,000 of them — have come from the S2S mobile app, which can be downloaded free of charge.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro said that the majority of tips have been focused on students struggling with mental health issues. “That’s why I’m calling on our legislators to read this report, study the data and act to address the need for increased mental health resources for our kids,” Shapiro said.

The report tracks tips by intermediate unit. There were 1,282 tips from schools within the Carbon-Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21 and 1,496 from schools in Colonial IU 20 (Northampton, Monroe and Pike counties).

The unique feature of the program involves training students, administrators and educators to recognize the signs of those at risk of hurting themselves or others.

While the cost of administering the program as of June 30 was $743,428, Browne considers it money well spent given the encouraging results in helping keep schools safe.

As expected, there were bogus calls, too, but not as many as planners had feared. Nearly 900 of the tips were immediately identified as pranks, or about 4% of the total number.

One of the biggest surprises was that the majority of tips have not been about students making violent threats to their schools or their classmates. Instead, they have been focused on students struggling with mental health issues.

“The numbers in the report show the reality of what our children are facing in school as they struggle with bullying, anxiety and thoughts of self-harm,” the report concluded.

Here is the statewide breakdown (with numbers rounded off) of the types of calls received: bullying (including cyber bullying), 3,600; cutting (harming one’s self), 2,500; suicide threats, 2,200; depression/anxiety, 2,100; drug use, distribution and possession, 1,900; Smoking and vaping in school, 1,400; inappropriate language, behavior or gestures, 900; threats against schools, 600; general harassment, 600, and threats against individuals, 500.

As for our local intermediate unit numbers, for Carbon-Lehigh: bullying (including cyber bullying), 186; cutting (harming one’s self), 121; depression/anxiety, 116; drug use, distribution and possession, 112; suicide threats, 106; smoking and vaping in schools, 76; threats against individuals, 47; inappropriate language, behavior or gestures, 46; general harassment, 40, and threats against schools, 33.

For the Northampton, Monroe and Pike intermediate unit:cutting (harming one’s self), 197; bullying (including cyber bullying), 186; depression/anxiety, 150; drug use, distribution and possession, 137; suicide threats, 116; smoking and vaping in schools, 76; threats against schools, 56; inappropriate language, behavior or gestures, 52; general harassment, 41, and threats against individuals, 39.



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