Each year millions of youths in schools and communities across the country hurt themselves or others through verbal, physical and digital means. The 2017 CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Study found that 21% of high school student are bullied on school property each year in Pennsylvania. That same study found that 17.3% of high school students are electronically bullied each year in Pennsylvania. These incidents cause youths to experience emotional trauma and physical injury, mental health or wellness issues, stress or anxiety, and/or feelings of being unsafe and/or bullied. All too often, the outcome results in self-harm, suicide, or homicide.
The facts show that in the majority of these acts, youths and /or adults were witnesses to threats, warning signs, or signals, especially on social media, but did not report or intervene to help the youth at risk. 80% of school shooters told someone of their violent plans. 50% told more than one person.70% of people who complete suicide tell someone of their plans or give other warning signs.
There are many reasons why youth and adults don’t say something when they see a warning sign or signal: they don’t understand or know how to recognize warning signs or signals; don’t believe the treat to be true because “they would never say it publicly if they really meant it”; don’t want to be labeled, stigmatized, or threatened as a “rat”, “snitch” or “tattle-tale”; didn’t know who to tell; or thought someone else would say something.
On June 22, 2018, governor Wolf signed the Safe2Say Something Anonymous Reporting Law. This law establishes a system whereby people can make anonymous reports of behaviors that present concerns in public and non-public schools. The Safe2Say Something Anonymous Report System teaches youth and adults how to recognize warning signs and signals and report such conduct or concerns BEFORE it is too late. By allowing anonymous reporting the act provides a tool for students, staff, parents, and communities to report unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities in a school entity or a threat of such activities in a school entity without having to worry about any type of retaliation or being bullied and made fun of by being labelled a snitch, a rat or a tattle-tale. The hope is that this will allow more people to feel comfortable reporting things they hear and see that are of concern.
Upon receipt of an anonymous report, analyst in the crisis center gather as much information to assess and evaluate the tip. Tips are categorized by immediacy and severity. The analyst forwards the report to a school entity’s crisis team, law enforcement dispatch, and other organizations where appropriate. Once the report is received, the school entity and local law enforcement are charged with assessing, intervening, and taking appropriate protective action with the at-risk individual before they get to the point of hurting themselves of others.
Hopefully this new law will prevent individuals from hurting themselves or others, by getting help before they make a decision that effects the rest of their life and the lives of others.
Vossekuil, B., et al., 2002. https://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/preventingattacksreport.pdf
Robins, E., et al., 1959. https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.49.7.888