IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Sandy Hook Reporting System Yields Immediate Triage 24/7

Schools in upstate New York are using Sandy Hook Promise’s Say Something Anonymous Reporting System, which features a live, 24-hour call center and the ability for students to report an incident or threat of impending violence by phone, text or email.

Florida state Rep. Kristin Jacobs speaking with student survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the hallway at the Florida Capitol.
Florida state Rep. Kristin Jacobs talks with student survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the hallway at the Florida Capitol.
(AP/Mark Wallheiser)
It seems almost inevitable that after a school shooting, we learn that there was information about the perpetrator that could have precipitated an intervention that might have changed the course of events. And that information didn’t get into the right hands in time — or at all.

It is with that premise in mind that middle and high schools in Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties in New York, part of the
Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES (E2CCB), recently partnered with Sandy Hook Promise and deployed the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System.

The application allows for students, teachers, administrators or anyone with what they think might be helpful information about a bullying incident, or any threat, to anonymously share that information 24 hours a day to a live call center. It can be sent via email, phone or text to a team that will proceed with the proper course of action.

In some cases, that may mean immediately notifying local police, or it could mean an intervention with a student or students — it is hoped — before an incident takes place.

“Usually after an incident you find that somebody knew something and they decided not to say anything or they waited a few weeks to say something and by that time it may be too late,” said Matthew McGarrity, interim assistant superintendent for management services for E2CCB.

“BOCES” stands for Board of Cooperative Educational Services and is an educational branch of the New York State Education Department that provides services to districts that might not be able to afford them otherwise. There are 27 school districts within the E2CCB.

“The message is that we need to have a culture in our schools where it’s not only OK to say something, but it’s encouraged so that everybody can stay safe,” McGarrity said.

Along with the ability to report at any time, the program conducts training for students and school staff about what to look for in terms of behavior that might be considered bullying or that could be a hint that something even more sinister or life threatening may be in the offing.

Each high school has a triage team — a building team — to go along with the district team. The building team consists of three to five school administrators, including teachers, principals, counselors and maybe social workers, while the district team can include the superintendent, assistant superintendent, a facilities director and maybe a technology director.

When a call or tip comes in, each team will triage it, whether it’s a low-level or a life-threatening tip, and provide the appropriate response. The training helps those team members understand what may be less serious and what could be deadly.

“A low-level tip could be a tip saying, ‘Today in the lunchroom I saw a kid bullied and he had his lunch taken,’” McGarrity said. “For a life-threatening tip, the school district team is notified, the building team is notified, and the local police departments are notified also.”

The obvious goal is to find out as quickly as possible who the subject and/or the student in crisis is and address that individual’s needs as soon as possible. That may mean disciplinary action, working with the parents or perhaps recommending counseling. The districts work closely with the police if there is a legitimate, life-threatening concern.

The Sandy Hook system met E2CCB’s needs in that it provided a 24-hour call center, training with the app and on crisis intervention, and gave students and administrators the ability to take action anonymously.

“To have the technology in the hands of students was a big factor in the decision,” McGarrity said. “And really the overall goal is within the school community to have everybody on the same page, saying, ‘You know, we’re going to do everything we can and we’re going to say something if something happens.”