Sanderson High School theater students remember Sandy Hook victims
North Carolina middle and high schools will soon be able to report potentially dangerous activity on campus through a new state smartphone app, website and phone line.
The Say Something Anonymous Reporting System, starting in August, will allow students to report suspicious behavior to a command center, where the information will be investigated. North Carolina is partnering with Sandy Hook Promise, the developer of the system, to launch the program statewide.
“It is imperative that parents can drop their students off at school knowing that they will go to a safe, warm, inviting environment,” said Mark Johnson, state school superintendent, in announcing the program Thursday.
The state legislature allocated $5 million in the state’s 2018 budget to fund the project, which is estimated to cost $650,000 a year, Johnson said.
Nicole Hockley, managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, spoke at Thursday’s launch. Her first-grade son, Dylan, was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.
In addition to the reporting system, Sandy Hook Promise will also hold trainings at schools to teach students the warning signs of people who might hurt themselves or others.
“We’re excited about the possibilities of keeping kids safe, the realities of keeping kids safe,” Hockley said. “And to ensure that no one in your community, and for the generation to come, ever has to experience the horrors that we have in Newton. That’s our promise to all of you.”
Sandy Hook Promise will also staff the command center, which will be built over the summer.
North Carolina is the second state to implement the Say Something system statewide, Johnson said.
The state piloted an app in five school districts in 2015 and 2016, and received tips about bullying, danger, drugs, weapons, fighting and underage drinking.
Some school districts in the state already have their own versions of safety apps. They will have the option to continue using those in place of the state-funded program.
Henderson County Schools developed their own anonymous reporting app in July 2018, said John Bryant, associate superintendent of Henderson County Schools. A member of the district’s IT department wrote the code for the app himself, in addition to his normal duties, so the app had no extra cost for the district, Bryant said.
The app — Report It, Don’t Ignore It — has been a success for Henderson County, and they plan to continue using it, he said.
Both the state’s pilot app and Henderson County Schools’ app received some false reports. But both Hockley and Bryant said that the number of serious reports greatly outweighed the hoaxes.
The Say Something app will be available for anyone to download, but the program is marketed for student use, Johnson said.
“If you’re on Instagram and you see something concerning, you’ll be able to report that,” he said.
The Say Something app will offer the option to select any middle or high school in the state, but no elementary schools. Elementary school issues will have to be reported by calling the school directly or law enforcement, Johnson said.