Erica Erwin

Schools throughout the 13-county Diocese of Erie now have a new tool aimed at increasing school safety: an anonymous tip reporting system.

The Safe2Say Something program, a partnership between Sandy Hook Promise and the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, launched statewide earlier this month. Pennsylvania is the first state to require all schools across the state to enact the program.

Here’s how it works: Students or adults can submit anonymous tips regarding harassment, threats and other worrisome behavior exhibited by fellow students using an app, a website or a dedicated hotline. Each tip is then reviewed by staff in a call center housed in the Office of the Attorney General. Call-center staff “triage” each tip, referring it to appropriate school teams and law enforcement agencies based on the level of threat.

Schools throughout the Diocese of Erie have begun training staff and students on how to use the system, according to Roberta Bucci, director of government programs for the Catholic Schools Office.

“I would hope (Safe2Say Something) provides students and parents a level of comfort, knowing there’s a method in place now for students and parents to make tips in an anonymous manner that could help save a child’s life or keep a school community safe,” Bucci said. “Sometimes people worry about repercussions, and this removes that.”

Nancy Kremm, principal of St. Michael School in Greenville, held a meeting for parents to explain the program and a separate training session for students in grades 5 through 8. The students took the session very seriously, she said.

“The initiative itself is an excellent idea because students are afraid to tell someone face to face, and this gives them a means to make anonymous tips” through channels they’re familiar with, including a website and app, Kremm said.

During the student session, Kremm talked about “warning signs,” behavior or speech that signals a student might be at-risk of committing a violent act. It’s helpful – and reassuring – to students and staff to know what to look for, she said.

“Just to know now that they can take ownership of any threats against them or other students (by using the reporting system) empowered them,” she said. “I don’t think they feel helpless anymore.”

Attorney General Josh Shapiro said he was proud that his office was entrusted to run the program.

“Pennsylvania students deserve a safe place to learn, free from the threat of violence from classmates or other individuals.” Shapiro said in a statement announcing the reporting system. “Working together with Sandy Hook Promise, we can make Pennsylvania a safer place for families, teachers and, most importantly, our students.”

Sandy Hook Promise is a national non-profit organization based in Newtown, Connecticut. It is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.  

For more information, visit www.safe2saypa.org.