Wendy Benton

BENTON

A new program aimed at providing a way to report early signs a young person could be a threat to themselves or someone else is slated to launch Jan. 14 in Pennsylvania.

The Safe2Say Something program, implemented through the state attorney general’s office under Pennsylvania Act 44 of 2018, is designed to train school staff and students how to detect early warning signs of potential youth violence and create a clear protocol for reporting such instances through the coordination of school districts and emergency dispatch.

The program is being implemented in coordination with Sandy Hook Promise, an organization comprised of individuals impacted by the December 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting and created to provide training on detection and reporting of early warning signs of youth violence.

As part of the program rollout, school districts and dispatchers across the state were required to undergo training and create clear protocols to coordinate with each other and necessary emergency personnel.

“(Crisis) Team members are participating in practice scenarios and collaborating with emergency first responders to develop plans to streamline critical communications,” Wendy Benton, assistant superintendent and acting superintendent, said. “Our team members will be available 24/7 to respond to crisis tips. ... There have been school police and local police discussions and proactive planning to address tips received in a collaborative manner. Emergency Management 911 centers will be the triage and main dispatch center locally when tips are received from the Safe2Say reporting system. They will dispatch local police, as well. County 911 dispatch and schools have been trained. ... School and police investigations will intersect and address tips cooperatively in an effort to ensure the safety of our community.”

Administrators with DuBois, Punxsutawney, Curwensville and Clearfield area school districts all reported they would be ready by the Jan. 14 launch. St. Marys Area School District Superintendent Brian Toth had reported plans for the district to be ready in his November report to the school board.

“On the Clearfield County side of things, we are meeting this week with our county emergency management and local law enforcement,” Clearfield Area Superintendent Terry Struble said Monday. “We are supposed to have system tests put out to the state later this week, rescheduled from last week. So not much to add at this point other than we are trying to be ready when the state says it will be active.”

The DuBois Area School District reported steps to prepare for the launch have been ongoing for months.

“Since October, the DuBois Area School District has been preparing for the Launch of the Safe2Say Something initiative,” Benton said. “Our school safety and security coordinator, Officer Janice Bart, is leading the charge. We are currently enhancing our existing crisis teams at the elementary, middle and secondary school levels to assist in the timely response of tips.”

The next step will be the student training component following the launch which, according to the state, will put an emphasis on recognizing warning signs online.

“At Curwensville, students will be trained shortly after the Jan. 14 date when it is available and a parent meeting will be scheduled,” district Superintendent Ronald Matchock said. “As a whole, we feel it is going to be a good program and provides another avenue for students to reach out for help or report something in advance that could allow a greater opportunity for intervention. As with all safe schools resources, it is another tool in the arsenal and we look forward to offering it to our students and parents.”

According to the state’s program website, anonymous tips will be able to be submitted through the Safe2Say Something app or website. Those tips will be forwarded to a “crisis center” which will, in turn, forward them to school districts and law enforcement.

Neither the website nor the app was available as of Jan. 9.

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