GREENFIELD — It’s a mantra law enforcement and educators keep repeating, hoping it sticks: if you see something, say something.
In the week that’s followed the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, parents, students and community members are reminded everyone plays a part in keeping schools safe.
And reporting suspicious behavior — conversations or social media posts that might make students uncomfortable — has never been easier.
School leaders say they’ve worked to reach students where students spend their time — online. Across the county, schools have implemented smartphone apps and online forms to make reporting harassment, intimidation and bullying even easier.
The BullyBøx, a free online program that also offers a downloadable smartphone app, provides a tech-friendly format for students to report bullying and other school safety issues to school staff at Mt. Vernon and Eastern Hancock schools.
Parents, students and community members can make a report if they see something that concerns them, educators said. And they can do it without fear of reprisal — leaving your name is optional.
Mt. Vernon communications director Maria Bond said the school receives as many as three reports that merit investigation a week via BullyBøx. That suggests to her students feel confident making reports.
At Southern Hancock schools, anyone can report school threats or bullying through a form on the district’s website, said communications director Wes Anderson.
The system works well for the district because it eliminates the middleman, he said. Instead of a rumor going to a student, then a teacher, who reports it to an administrator, the first-person report is immediately forwarded to the appropriate staff members to investigate.
Greenfield-Central for years has used the Safe Schools Alert program for reporting. Incidents can be reported via text, a phone call, by email or through an online portal. The Safe Schools Alert website specific to Greenfield is posted on the corporation website and each school website.
Eastern Hancock High School principal Dave Pfaff said he tells students it’s always better to speak up, even if their suspicion turns out to be nothing.
Students at the county’s smallest district have the luxury of generally recognizing who should and shouldn’t be in their buildings, he said. If they spot someone out of place, they need to tell someone, he said.
“I have told them many times, the No. 1 thing they can do to make school as safe as possible is if they see something, hear something, or even just have a bad feeling, to tell a school staff member,” he said.
Mt. Vernon schools had been planning a digital safety presentation for weeks, hoping to highlight for district parents ways they can keep their children safe online. But following a school shooting in Florida and threats being made toward schools across the country, Superintendent Shane Robbins felt it was important to remind parents of the responsibilities their children have when choosing to use social media.
- Parents must stay engaged, Robbins said. Social media activity takes place on and off school grounds, so parents must help set boundaries and explain consequences to kids.
- Users should never post something others could interpret as threatening — even as a joke.
- Threats can lead to criminal charges, even if no violence occurred afterward.
- Threatening jokes have a ripple effect, making students anxious and taking up time for educators and law enforcement.
- Users who spot something concerning should quickly make a report with as much detail as possible to aid the investigation.