New program could reduce bullying, violence in Unionville-Chadds Ford School District

EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Unionville-Chadds Ford school directors are set to approve a unique program that could reduce abuse, bullying, violence, harassment and substance abuse in the district’s schools.

Administrators are recommending approval of a program called Say Something starting in the 2018-19 school year, to be implemented in grades 6 to 12.

“Over the past few years, we have implemented several initiatives related to student wellness, and the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System is a tool that allows our students and our community to feel connected,” said Leah Rider, director of Special Education in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. “It enhances our safety protocols for at-risk students.”

The program provides seed money for the start-up of student clubs to support the initiative. Multi-disciplinary teams in schools will be trained by Say Something trainers.

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Specifically, the program is designed to combat assault, physical and verbal abuse, bullying, bragging about an upcoming attack, depression, fighting, gun violence, harassment, hopelessness, reckless behavior, social isolation or withdrawal, substance abuse, suicide and self-harm, theft and talk about weapons.

The program’s effectiveness relies on students providing anonymous tips. Support teams and building administrators develop effective protocols for responding to these tips. False tips are expected to be less than 1 percent of the tips received. Students will be taught to “Say Something” when they experience unacceptable gestures, behaviors, written or spoken words, photos or videos. Research has found that social media is the primary source of signals and threats, followed by hallways, lunchrooms and classrooms.

“Say Something (Anonymous Reporting System) dovetails nicely with current district initiatives,” Reider said. “The system allows school administrators to create effective interventions in order to help prevent bullying, self-hard and other forms of threatening behavior before it happens.”

A national study found that 37 percent of threats of violence and bullying were sent electronically and 28 percent used social media. Nationally, seven out of 10 people who complete suicide told someone of their plans or gave a person a warning sign.

Administrators are preparing to ensure they have the proper protocols in place for reporting of anonymous tips, and to make sure three is sufficient staff to handle the tips when they come in.

“The administration is committed to the safety and well-being of our students,” according to a statement from the district. “If we find that the level of work for our school counselors and school social workers becomes unsustainable based on the addition of this new resource, we will look to restructure or add to our support resources.”

It works like this: A student calls the tip line. A crisis counselor receives and reviews the tip information. The tip is then triaged and categorized as either life safety or non-life safety. The tips is sent to school officials, or law enforcement (as needed) via text, e-mail and phone call within seconds of being received. School officials then act immediately to investigate, and the at-risk individually received the help needed. School officials report their outcomes to the Say Something platform and close out the tip ensuring accountability for every tip submitted.

Say Something is a branch of Sandy Hook Promise, a national, non-profit organization.

The tip line number is 1-844-5-SAYNOW and the web site is www.saysomething.net.

About the Author

Fran Maye

Fran Maye is an award-winning journalist and a graduate of Shippensburg University. He and his wife Marianne live in East Marlborough. He enjoys golf and is a 4.0 tennis player. Reach the author at kennettpaper@gmail.com or follow Fran on Twitter: @kennettpaper.