Kennebunk High School is one of the 14 schools in York County that plan to use the “Say Something” reporting system in an effort to prevent school violence. Contributed photo

Two York County school districts will be the first in the state to launch an anonymous digital reporting system through the violence prevention program Sandy Hook Promise.

The “Say Something” reporting system will allow students or adults in Regional School Units 21 and 57 to submit anonymous tips about safety concerns to help school officials and law enforcement agencies identify and intervene with at-risk individuals. Tips can submitted through a mobile app, website or by telephone.

Officials hope to have the reporting system up and running at the beginning of the next school year in Kennebunk-based RSU 21 and in RSU 57, which includes six towns in the Waterboro area. Combined, the districts include nine towns, 14 schools and nearly 7,000 students.

The Say Something reporting system is offered free to schools by Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit led by several family members of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. The system launched this spring and is being rolled out in school districts across the country, including Boston Public Schools.

School officials and police officers in York County hope the new system will encourage both students and adults to report threats of violence and other behavior such as harassment, substance abuse or threats of suicide or self-harm.

According to Sandy Hook Promise, research from the Secret Service shows that in 81 percent of violent attacks in U.S. schools, someone other than the attacker knew about their plan but failed to report it.

“Say Something aims to eliminate this culture of silence by providing a confidential, collaborative communication system where students and authorities can work together to respond to safety threats,” the Sandy Hook Promise website says.

BEING PROACTIVE

RSU 21 Superintendent Katie Hawes said she first heard of the system from a local parent at the same time she and other school officials were reviewing school safety following the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Implementing it is a proactive way to address concerns ranging from bullying to threats of violence against students, she said.

“We always think this can’t happen here,” Hawes said. “We’re in this beautiful community in this beautiful part of the world, but I’m sure that’s what they thought in Sandy Hook and Parkland.”

After researching the reporting system, Hawes said she reached out to the three police departments that cover the towns in RSU 21 for their input. York County Sheriff Bill King, whose department patrols the six towns in RSU 57, suggested Hawes contact that district’s superintendent, Larry Malone, about also implementing the system.

Malone, whose district serves more than 3,000 students, said he welcomed the opportunity to partner with RSU 21 to bring the reporting system to York County. He hopes the anonymous nature of the system will encourage people to report information to authorities to prevent serious incidents.

“We’re trying to be very proactive to be able to provide safety and security for our students while they’re here at school,” Malone said.

SYSTEM ‘DOVETAILS’ WITH CURRICULUM

On Tuesday, representatives from Sandy Hook Promise will meet in Kennebunk with school administrators from both districts, school resource officers and representatives of the York County Sheriff’s Office and the Kennebunk and Kennebunkport police departments to customize the system. That will include identifying which types of threats are forwarded by a 24/7 crisis line to school officials and which go directly to police.

King said he is eager to learn more about how the reporting system will work. He believes it will reinforce the message school resources officers and educators have been teaching students about the importance of speaking up if they see or hear threats or other concerning behavior.

“One central resource might be able to put things together and prevent something unspeakable,” King said.

Hawes said the launch of the reporting system “dovetails nicely” with the K-12 curriculum the district has developed centered on emotional and social well-being. School counselors and social workers have been trained in the Sandy Hook Promise programs “Start with Hello” and “Say Something,” which use age-appropriate information to teach students about social isolation and how to recognize signs of a potential threat. Hawes said the programs teach students how to take action and reinforce the need to say something before an incident occurs.

Students at Kennebunk High School are starting a local chapter of SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere) through Sandy Hook Promise. Hawes said students were motivated to take action following the Parkland shooting and nationwide student walk-out to protest gun violence in schools.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: grahamgillian

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