WATERVILLE — Students at the Mid-Maine Technical Center can now report concerns about peers’ behavior anonymously.

About 400 people enrolled at the school received training on a system called Say Something Tuesday morning and afternoon. Say Something, which operates through a smartphone app, website and 27/4 hotline, enables individuals to submit tips to a crisis counselor who helps coordinate a response to the situation without ever knowing who reported it.

While Say Something is equipped to handle life-threatening concerns such as the threat of a school shooting, it is also an outlet to report abuse, bullying, depression, substance abuse, sexual assault and threats of violence or suicide.

“Part of the training included educating students about what a warning sign is and why it is important to tell an adult,” said Beth Carlton, student services coordinator at Mid-Maine Technical Center, who helped bring the program to the school. “For instance, if you notice a change in someone’s behavior, that’s something … About 75 percent of it was educational and 25 percent was about the app.”

The program was created by parents of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as part of a larger nonprofit organization called Sandy Hook Promise. It is based in part on research from the Secret Service that found that 81 percent of violent attacks involved at least one person who knew about the perpetrator’s plans but did not speak up.

“For kids who are on the edge of will I or won’t I (report something), the anonymous factor is important,” said Misha Littlefield, a firefighting student at MMTC. “Less kids will think about what others are going to think (of them).”

Mid-Maine Technical Center is among the first educational institutions in the state to introduce the reporting system.

“We’ve been working on this since November, and we really wanted it to happen by the end of the school year,” Carlton said. “It’s been going very well today.”

Waterville and Winslow junior high and high schools will roll out the system at the start of the upcoming school year, Carlton said, making the former Alternative Organizational Structure 92 the third district in Maine to implement Say Something. Regional School Unit 21, which includes Arundel, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, started using the program in November, while Regional School Unit 57, which serves Alfred, Limerick, Lyman, Newfield, Shapleigh and Waterboro, rolled it out in December. It does not cost schools any money to utilize the system.

Mid-Maine Technical Center students listen Tuesday as Medical Career class instructor Tracy Cloutier conducts a workshop on the use of the “Say Something” app that is now available to students attending the tech center. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

Other area communities could see secondhand benefits from the system, Carlton said. While people are required to denote an affiliation with Mid-Maine Technical Center when making a report, they can choose to write about a student from Lawrence High School or Messalonskee High School, for instance, in the description of the incident. The technical center enrolls teenagers from those communities.

Students said the system was user-friendly and intuitive.

“It’s not that hard to get into,” said Lucas Pellotte, a mass media communications student, as he navigated the app on his iPhone for the first time. “It seems easy to use and really useful.”

“I definitely would use it,” said Hailie Lightbody, who studies criminal justice at the technical center.

The system is not just for students. Parents and teachers can also submit tips anonymously through the app, website and hotline, 1-844-5-SAYNOW.

As students learned Tuesday, if someone reports a concern about a peer, it goes straight to a trained crisis counselor working remotely from Florida. The counselor asks follow-up questions to determine if the threat should be categorized as “life safety,” meaning immediate or high-risk, or “non-life safety.”

Mid-Maine Technical Center student Lucas Pellotte listens on Tuesday as Student Services Coordinator Beth Carlton explains the use of the “Say Something” app that is now available to students in case they witness a threat in the Waterville school system. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

If it is classified as “life safety,” Waterville’s dispatch center and the designated school crisis team — which includes Carlton and select administrators — are immediately notified. Law enforcement officials often conduct wellness checks on the individual in these circumstances, which can involve making sure he or she does not have access to weapons. School officials will also work to determine an appropriate course of action.

If the tip is classified as “non-life safety,” school crisis teams are notified during a designated time period and investigate and take action as they deem necessary.

Students completed several learning modules in small groups on Tuesday. Interactive videos and quizzes asked them how they would react to various scenarios and addressed barriers to intervening, including a fear of “snitching,” a belief that threats on social media aren’t serious and a misconception that someone can be too young to act violently or harm themselves.

Several said they think that having an avenue to report concerns off-hours will be beneficial and that they frequently come across troubling posts on social media platforms.

“People post (concerning) things all the time after they break up with somebody or something,” Lightbody said.

Individuals using the Say Something reporting system have the option to attach screenshots of messages, social media posts and even audio or video recordings to provide context to the people reviewing the cases.

Reiterating a lesson from the training session, Jenna Ross, a criminal justice student, pointed out that students are the eyes and ears of the community and have an obligation to watch out for eachother’s well-being.

“Teachers aren’t allowed to have us on social media, but we have each other,” she said.

“I hope more schools do it,” Lightbody added.

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