Since launching the Say Something program, officials in Pinellas County in Florida have been able to save students from suicide, while also thwarting several potential school attacks.
“In several instances, if someone hadn’t called the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System, we wouldn’t have discovered that someone was in danger until it was too late,” said Sgt. William Connell with the Pinellas Schools Police Department. “It’s working and it’s saving lives.”
Sgt. Connell and other officials said the program has been so successful, in part, because of the way students have embraced it.
“It’s giving our students a voice and empowering them to do something. We see a lot of reports from ‘upstanders’ who are concerned about another student.”Dorene Daughtry, bullying prevention specialist for the district
She added that the district plans to celebrate student upstanders during Say Something Week held annually in March.
Since the district’s 130 schools first implemented the Say Something training and the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System (SS-ARS) three years ago, they’ve received more than 9,000 tips that resulted in nearly 800 lives saved, district officials said. While many of those interventions involve students with suicidal thoughts, they’ve also had potential school attacks that have been averted because someone who saw a threat online spoke up – and not just in their district.
“We had several students report a threat that they saw at a school in another state,” said Lisa DePaolo, manager of the district’s prevention office. “We didn’t know the school, but the police were able to reach out to the other district and provide them with the information. We were able to work together to get the threatening message to the right people.”
Reaching Students in the Shadows
Daughtry said that about half of the tips they receive involve students who are being bullied, harassed, or have mental health concerns. Like many communities, she said they have seen an increase in reports of suicidal ideation, self-harm, depression, and anxiety since the COVID pandemic began.
“The most impressive aspect of the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System is that it finds those quiet kids that are not saying anything, but they’re suffering quietly in the shadows.”Dorene Daughtry, bullying prevention specialist for the district
Sgt. Connell recalled one report that came in from a student who was concerned that their friend was preparing to die by suicide. The friend had told the student that they had a weapon and were planning to die by suicide later that afternoon.
When the department’s mobile crisis team was able to locate the student, they admitted their plans. But because of the report, the student was able to get the help they needed.
“Because a student saw the (warning) signs and reached out for help, we were able to save their friend’s life,” Sgt. Connell said.
Sgt. Connell said the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System is a significant improvement over another reporting system they had been using previously.
“With the old system, we’d get a report the next day and we’d have to follow up with what little information we had,” he said. “But with the new system, we can interact with counselors at the Crisis Center while they still have the tipster on the phone.”
As a result, Sgt. Connell said they can get real-time information that can be acted upon quickly – before a tragedy can strike.
“The Say Something Anonymous Reporting System is an amazing tool that allows us to get more information to do our job and get people help. I would encourage everyone to get involved and bring this program to your district.”Sgt. William Connell, Pinellas County Schools Police Department
Find out how you can bring the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System to your school.