U-CF School District administration recommends Say Something program
● By J. Chambless
By John Chambless
In an effort to head off tragedy –
everything from a serious threat to a school shooting – the
Unionville-Chadds Ford School District is proposing the adoption of
the Say Something Program.
The national non-profit organization is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. The U-CF School District administration and the Wellness Council are recommending the approval of the program starting in the 2018-2019 school year.
An email to parents and community members last week read, in part, “We are recommending this program for our district because it will provide additional support for our students and community to intervene when there are concerns about student well-being. The program helps to teach students to look for warning signs, signals and threats, to take them seriously, and to report these concerns to a trusted adult. If they are unable or unwilling to report these concerns to an adult, they can report them with the Anonymous Reporting App.”
The app is “designed to help prevent at-risk individuals from hurting themselves or others by intervening when individuals displaying pathway behaviors that, at the extreme, could end in a life being lost,” the email continued. “School counselors at Patton Middle School and Unionville High School, as well as administration, feel that app fits very well with current programs and curriculum and will build upon the foundation we have already built across the district.”
If approved by the School Board, the program will begin with training for students, staff and parents.
Student training will consist of assemblies, small-group presentations and online training. The program provides seed money for the startup of student clubs to support the initiative. Teams in schools will be trained by Say Something trainers. Training will also be provided to parents in person by Say Something trainers or online.
The program is aimed at students in grades 6 to 12 in the district.
“The UCFSD Wellness Council reviewed several resources that provide similar services,” the email read. “This resource provides a level of service, support and training that others did not. It also has a curriculum connected with it to support the program goals. The Wellness Council was impressed with the educational component which was not present with the other vendors. Also, this program comes with no charge, as it is grant-funded.”
In addressing concerns that may come up about the program, the district cited, “Will we be prepared regarding the appropriate protocols for anonymous tips? Also, will we have the staff necessary to handle the tips that may come in? There were concerns raised as well about false tips and possible targeting of individuals unfairly. If we find that the level of work for our school counselors and school social workers becomes unsustainable based on the addition of this new resource, we will look to restructure or add to our support resources.
“False tips, though expected to be less than one percent of the tips received, will be monitored,” the statement continued. “Current users of this type of service have not found false tips to be a significant problem with the implementation of the program.”
The anonymity of tips made to the crisis center through the app is guaranteed. “The system utilizes multiple external anonymous gateways to block IP addresses/phone numbers, and all phone calls received in the crisis center are blocked using a sophisticated multiple-level blocking system.”
Identites will not be revealed without a court-ordered search warrant, unless loss of life is imminent.
Parents can find out if their child is in crisis through school officials, or through local police.
“All life-safety tips are provided to the school district to act upon,” the statement reads. “Therefore, a school official who receives and acts upon a tip could contact parents per school policy and protocols. … All life-safety tips are provided to local police to act upon. Therefore, in the event that police are either directly reaching out to a student or working with the school district, contact could be made with a parent or guardian. The most likely scenario is through visiting an at-risk child in their home, or post an emergency intervention.”
Once the program is implemented, tips can be phoned in to the Crisis Center, through the website, or through the anonymous reporting app.
For more information, or to voice concerns, email Leah Reider, Director of Special Education (email@example.com), Justin Webb, Technology Director (firstname.lastname@example.org) or John Nolen, Assistant Superintendent (email@example.com).
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.