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The Guilford community now has another tool in its toolbox when it comes to keeping students safe. Guilford Public School officials previously announced the district would adopt a new anonymous reporting system that will allow students, staff, or community members to use an app on their phone to submit anonymous safety concerns. That program rolls out to students district-wide this week.
The Say Something Anonymous Reporting System (SS-ARS) allows students to anonymously submit a report about a safety concern or a fellow student who they think might harm himself or herself or others. The report can be made through a dedicated app, via a website, or by calling a dedicated crisis center. The report is then immediately sent to the school district contact and/or law enforcement, if necessary.
The reporting system comes to Guilford through a partnership between the Guilford Public Schools and Sandy Hook Promise (SHP), a gun violence prevention organization formed after the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
A number of anonymous reporting apps have popped up over the years in response to the trend of school violence. Superintendent of Schools Paul Freeman said the district went with the Sandy Hook app because the district has already embraced many other SHP programs like Start with Hello and Choose Love.
“I also think that the product itself, the Say Something app, is particularly well done and complete and functional,” he said. “The support of the call clearinghouse—they have very trained professionals who are receiving the phone calls—the way we partner with the local police department is a function of all of the services, so it is much more than just an answering machine with an anonymous number and that is what we appreciated.”
Freeman said the app is geared toward Adams Middle School and Guilford High School students, but the app and contact number is available to the whole community.
“It’s an anonymous system so any parent or resident of Guilford could log on to the app,” he said. “It’s not limited to students who attend those schools, so a parent could absolutely anonymously report through those systems as well.”
District staff was trained on the app last week and students will receive a presentation and training on the app this week.
“The Sandy Hook presenters who speak to our students will first be talking to them about the importance of not being a bystander, about reaching out and when somebody needs help or when someone might be making a bad decision, the importance of saying something,” he said. “Then they will introduce this tool as another way. In fact, the presenters first remind students that the best way to get help is to talk to a trusted adult—talk to a parent, talk to a teacher, talk to an administrator—but if for any reason a student or child feels uncomfortable doing that, then the say something opportunity is another way to make sure that some one can ask for help and do it anonymously if for any reason that makes them feel more comfortable.”
Freeman thanked the Song family—particularly Kristin Song, mother of Guilford High School freshman Ethan Song, who died from a gunshot wound in 2018—for bringing the program to the attention of the district. Freeman also thanked the Guilford Police Department for its partnership on this program.
“The Say Something Anonymous Reporting System is a proven program that provides additional opportunities for students to share important information with law enforcement that they might not have otherwise shared,” said Guilford Police Chief Jeff Hutchinson in a statement. “Getting this information early is critical to achieving our goals of investigating and intervening early enough to make a difference. The Guilford Police Department looks forward to partnering with our schools, our students, and with Sandy Hook Promise on this most important initiative.”
Freeman said this program is about safety, but it’s also about creating an environment where students have every opportunity to speak up when they have a concern.
“My hope and my goal is that students always feel comfortable going to a trusted adult in this community when they are worried about someone else or have concerns of their own, but I don’t ever want to put a hurdle in between a child being able to reach out for that help,” he said. “We know adolescents, particularly adolescents who are struggling with anxiety or depression or social concerns, sometimes are going to be embarrassed or are going to worry about being caught or worry about trust, so if an anonymous system takes down one of those barriers for even a few students, then we are happy to have that here. We want to know when our kids need help.”
The program comes at no cost to the town and is funded completely by SHP. For more information, visit www.sandyhookpromise.org.
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