New hotline could help Hempfield schools investigate potential threats
A new communications platform could help make the Hempfield Area School District safer.
Safe 2 Say Something, a hotline where students and adults can submit anonymous tips about something suspicious online or from a person who proposes a threat to themselves or others, is set to start next week.
The program teaches students, parents and teachers how to spot warning signs for potential dangers, giving them an outlet to post concerns.
“Our students often are aware of the problems their peers are facing, so we must empower them to know the danger signs and give them the tools to help each other with the assistance of trained and caring adults,” Lisa Maloney, supervisor of pupil services and the safety and security coordinator at Hempfield schools, said in a letter to parents.
Tips can be submitted by calling 844-723-2729, on safe2saypa.org/tip or through an associated app.
After a tip is submitted, it is sent to a call center in Harrisburg, which receives calls and emails 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and assesses it for viability and legitimacy. From there, it is referred to the appropriate school district or police department for action.
According to Maloney’s letter, middle and high school students participated in training this week, presented by the Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit founded by family members of those killed during the Dec. 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Nationally, the platform went live starting Jan. 14.
The free program eventually will replace the school’s current Safe School Hotline, which still will be available until the end of the 2018-19 school year.
The program is available to schools across the state and is headed by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.
Hempfield school board members are also considering joining the Step Up Westmoreland program, an initiative aimed at providing mental health services to students.
According to Jason Conway, executive director of the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit, a regional education services agency, one in five people between the ages of 13 and 18 have or will have a serious mental illness by the age of 14. Of those, 75 percent will be diagnosed with a mental illness by age 24.
The Step Up Westmoreland website offers crisis help, resources and services for people who don’t know where to turn for help with mental illness, an online space to ask an expert questions and an area for students that provides peer support through video projects, writing and other creative means.
Conway said he hopes the program will help make schools a safer place by providing needed services to citizens.
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MeganTomasic.
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, email@example.com or via Twitter .