Middle school students in the Brentwood Union School District (BUSD) have been given a new tool to help themselves and each other: Say Something — an anonymous-reporting app that allows students to report everything from bullying to acts of violence and self-harm.
“We are committed to proactively preventing violence,” said BUSD Superintendent Dr. Dana Eaton. “In 70% of suicides and 80% of school shootings, someone was told about these plans beforehand ... This tool allows students to anonymously report, and ensure that adults can intervene and get help for students immediately.”
Eaton said the hope is to empower students to take action to prevent violence by giving them a safe place to report what they have seen or heard.
Say Something is designed to teach youths and teens to recognize signs of someone wanting to hurt themselves or others and go to a trusted adult for help. Students can download the app onto their phones and then create an anonymous account, allowing them to report. Once they’ve given a tip, they open a dialogue with a triage center which determines if the situation is life threatening or not. If necessary, the triage center will notify the student’s school and the Brentwood Police Department (BPD).
So far, more than 20 tips have been reported since the beginning of the school year, and several students’ lives have been impacted in a positive way, according to BUSD Director of Student Services, Chris Calabrese. He explained the school district is legally required to have a method for students to anonymously communicate tips about bullying or other negative situations, and the Say Something app, from the nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise (SHP), was the right fit.
“We’ve intervened in many students’ lives as a result, offering counseling support and direct intervention,” Calabrese said. “In this world of social media, often kids find themselves in a place from four in the afternoon to 10 o’clock at night dealing with a situation, and they may not have the resources to seek help ... Many of the calls come in in the evenings.”
He added that he felt encouraged by one incident in which several different students reported that one student needed help — a sign that the kids in his district were willing and able to seek help for a friend when they weren’t sure what to do.
“That shows me the system is working,” said Calabrese.
Mitch Brouillette, school resource officer from the BPD, said the app is an important part of the district’s safety plan and a valuable tool to stop something before it happens.
“This is a collaboration between the schools and the Brentwood Police Department, working together to do everything we can to ensure our schools are safe,” Brouillette said. “This took a lot of work, a lot of collaboration with everyone, but it also has the ability to be the most effective.”
This program is free to the BUSD through the generosity of donors to Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit founded and led by individuals whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. For more information, visit www.sandyhookpromise.org.