NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover County Schools will be some of the first in the state to have access to an app dedicated to giving students and parents an anonymous outlet to report school safety concerns.
The ‘Say Something’ app was created by the Sandy Hook Promise organization and allows anyone to report a concern via text, phone call, or through the Say Something website.
“That’s the power of this app. It’s everything from violence at school, or concerns with drug use at school, concerns about one student showing signs they might be suicidal. All of these things are tips that can be sent to our 24/7 command center, dedicated to North Carolina,” said State Superintendent Mark Johnson.
“Tips are deemed either life safety or non-life safety. Life safety tips get immediately reported to a lead from the school system, the 911 system, and the principal of the school and we respond to those right then. If they’re non-life safety they report those to the school to be dealt with during school hours,” said New Hanover County Schools Student Support Director Kristin Johnson
Professionals trained by the Sandy Hook Promise organization will then be able to connect with the necessary school system or law enforcement agency to address the concerns.
“It’s a way that students can let trusted adults know about issues whether it be a concern for school safety. If they see something on social media, on a text message chain that is concerning for the safety of the school they can report that. It also lets them say 'you know what, this student on social media is taking some pretty serious cyberbullying hits, I need to let somebody know so that adults can intervene and stop this because it’s going to pile up on that student,” Johnson said.
The app has only been in use for one week, but Johnson said it has already shown to be effective.
“We’ve already tracked that there has been a tip submitted and a student who was showing signs of hurting themselves has now been put in touch with a counselor,” he said.
In New Hanover County, the program began just three days ago, but Johnson said it is already been useful.
“We’ve had about 20 tips come in and they’re not all just from students. We’ve had four parents report themselves or with their student on something their student shared with them. So we’re seeing the community kind of embracing this and letting us know what’s going on and where we need to intervene.”
Students were shown a 30-minute video made by Sandy Hook Promise to learn how to use the app and what warning signs to look out for.
“We’ve had lots of friends who have intervened for their other friends who may be hurting themselves or using substances they shouldn’t use so they can get help,” Johnson said.
She said they were also able to get a child on a program to take home food after school after receiving a tip about a student who did not have enough food at home.
Professionals at the Say Something command center are equipped to address concerns including abuse, assault, bragging about a planned attack, bullying, depression and anxiety, fighting, harassment, hopelessness, reckless behavior, social isolation, substance abuse, suicide threats or self-harm, theft, threats, violence, and weapons.
School districts in the surrounding areas will have access to the ‘Say Something’ program in the coming months.