Districts pleased with Safe2Say system
An anonymous reporting system is already playing a role for local school districts in its first month.
Safe2Say Something is a statewide program that went live Jan. 14 enabling students, teachers, school administrators and others to detect and report potential threats of violence and other problems before they happen.
In the program’s initial week, the reporting system has received 615 tips and calls from across Pennsylvania.
“We’ve had eight tips so far, two of which involved local police response,” Lehighton Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver said at a board meeting two weeks ago.
Lehighton is far from the only district already seeing a response from the Safe2Say implementation.
“We’ve had more than 30 tips since the program began,” Palmerton Superintendent Scot Engler said this week. “We also provided the student training on Jan 28 through Sandy Hook Promise. I invited the police to attend the training and, in addition to our student population, we had approximately 10 state and local police officers in attendance.”
The anonymous tip line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in all Pennsylvania schools for students in grades six through 12. Anyone can use the tip line to submit an anonymous tip regarding persons who may be a threat to themselves and/or others. To submit a tip, people can call the hotline at 1-844-SAF2SAY (1-844-723-2729) or on their own phone through the Safe2Say app.
Tips go through the state Attorney General’s Office, where they are evaluated. Tips are sorted into two categories, life-threatening and non-life-threatening, and are then forwarded to a designated team within the school district involved.
Weather postponements have played a role in delaying training for some districts. Panther Valley has just completed training.
Other districts did not immediately see any Safe2Say tips.
“To my knowledge, we have not had any tips from the Safe2Say program,” said Jim Thorpe Superintendent Brian Gasper on Feb. 1. “I compliment the Attorney General’s Office for their work with this program. Offering another outlet for our students to inform the administration and law enforcement of possible threats is a great thing.”
Northern Lehigh, as of Feb. 1, had also not received any tips through the program yet, and was working to complete training for its students.
Tamaqua Superintendent Ray Kinder said he believes once the initial kinks are worked out, Safe2Say will be a beneficial program.
“We have received a small handful of requests,” Kinder said. “Incidents have been handled at the building level thus far. Much of the program’s success will depend on the ability of all parties to communicate effectively.”
Threat thwarted in Hazleton
Police in Hazleton received a call Jan. 24 from a local communication center with a Safe2Say Something tip indicating a potential threat of gun violence at Hazleton Middle School.
“Pennsylvania students deserve a safe place to learn, free from the threat of violence from classmates or other individuals,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
“We’ll never know if this threat would have resulted in yet another tragic school shooting, but thanks to a tip that came in through Safe2Say Something — and the swift response of Hazleton-area law enforcement — fortunately all we are doing now is wondering, rather than mourning.”
According to a news release issued by Hazleton police, at approximately 2:30 a.m., Hazelton City police Sergeant Joseph Babula received a call from the Luzerne County Communications Center regarding a Safe2Say Something tip that a 14 year-old juvenile allegedly made a threat against the school through a social media site (SnapChat).
Based on that information, Hazleton Police Chief Jerry Speziale was immediately notified and coordinated with the Hazleton Area school police chief, Hazleton police detectives and Mayor Jeff Cusat.
Then, Hazleton police officers responded to the juvenile’s home at approximately 4:30 a.m. and met with adults in the home. It was determined that there was a licensed Glock .45 caliber handgun in the home.
Officers inquired if the weapon was secured and were told that it was locked and stored in a safe place. After further investigation, officers learned that was not the case as the weapon was fully loaded and out in the open on top of a bedroom nightstand.
Officers then seized the handgun for safekeeping and the juvenile was transported to Hazleton Police headquarters, accompanied by the adults in the home.