The Reporter (Lansdale, PA)

School threat tip system fields 23K reports

- By Mark Scolforo

HARRISBURG, PA. >> A state report released Monday said bullying, self-harm and suicide were the most common concerns fielded during the first half-year of operation for a new threat reporting system that covers Pennsylvan­ia schools.

The 21-page report by the state attorney general’s office said the Safe 2 Say Something program generated more than 23,000 tips between mid-January, when it launched, through the end of June.

Most tips, the report said, are not about violent threats.

“The numbers in this report show the reality of what our children are facing in school as they struggle with bullying, anxiety and thoughts of self-harm,” the report concluded, urging state law

makers to increase mental health resources in schools.

The report said there were 607 tips about threats against schools and 523 about threats against people.

About 1,300 tips were determined to be pranks, including a majority of them that were immediatel­y identified as false.

“There is no question that this program is contributi­ng to a safer school environmen­t,” said Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, a prime sponsor of the legislatio­n. “The success of Safe2Say lies in a caller’s trust that they will remain anonymous and that their tip will be taken seriously and acted upon swiftly.”

Safe 2 Say Something covers all K-12 students in Pennsylvan­ia, including charter, private and vocational-technical schools.

People most commonly made reports through a mobile app that handled more than 19,000 tips. The website received more than 3,500 tips, and about 500 were called in.

The annual report is required under a 2018 state law that establishe­d the program.

The major categories for tips over the first six months were bullying or cyber bullying, about 3,600; cutting or self-harm, about 2,500; suicide, about 2,200; depression or anxiety, about 2,100; and drugs, about 1,900. The other leading categories among the 49 possible “event types” were smoking; inappropri­ate language, behavior or gestures; school threats; general harassment; and threats against people.

It cost about $740,000 to launch and operate the program for the first six months. About 860,000 Pennsylvan­ia students have been trained in Safe 2 Say Something.

Tips are funneled to an around-the-clock call center at the attorney general’s headquarte­rs in Harrisburg. Each district is supposed to set up a group of three to five people who can respond to the tips.

The program is exempt from the state’s open records laws and guarantees confidenti­ality, although prosecutor­s and criminal defendants can request records of tips, with the name reacted, leaving decisions about providing those records to judges who first must review the records in private.

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