PLATTSMOUTH – Plattsmouth students will be able to help save lives of those closest to them through a new smartphone app launched Tuesday in the school district.
Plattsmouth Community Schools unveiled the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System app to students and staff members throughout the day. The school district is partnering with the Sandy Hook Promise organization to help students learn about the system. Sandy Hook Promise is one of the leading gun violence prevention organizations in the country.
Plattsmouth will be the first district in Nebraska to adopt the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System. Plattsmouth Superintendent Dr. Richard Hasty said the district wanted to take pre-emptive action at a time when violent incidents have happened at many other schools and civic institutions.
“The reason why we’re doing this is to prevent violence from happening in our school district,” Hasty said. “It’s essential that we be proactive in addressing this.”
Plattsmouth High School Principal Todd Halverson said he feels the system will help school and community leaders become more aware of potential incidents before they can take place. Students who are connected with friends and classmates through social media and other technological platforms will now be able to use those same tools to give anonymous reports to adults. The app is available to use on all smartphone devices.
“This is another avenue for students to report something that they see going on,” Halverson said. “I think this is a very positive thing. This is something that is going to help us tremendously.”
Sandy Hook Promise is based in Newtown, Conn., and was formed after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. The group’s mission is to prevent gun violence and other forms of violence and victimization before they happen. Officials want to create a culture of engaged youth and adults who are committed to identifying, intervening and getting help for those who might be at risk of hurting themselves or others.
Sandy Hook Promise Managing Director Nicole Hockley said she was pleased to see Plattsmouth join the program. Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, said she feels the system will make a difference within the district.
“Building upon our Say Something program, we are happy to partner with Plattsmouth Community Schools to help its students be ‘upstanders’ by training them to know the signs of potential violence,” Hockley said. “With SS-ARS, students can now take action to submit a tip anonymously and be sure it is case-managed by schools and local law enforcement. From bullying to substance abuse to suicide and school shooting threats, schools and communities can take tangible action to prevent violence before it occurs.”
Plattsmouth students in grades 5-12 were able to begin downloading the free app Tuesday. Students will be able to use the app to help identify at-risk individuals by submitting secure and anonymous safety concerns. Sandy Hook Promise crisis center workers will then relay those tips back to school and law enforcement officials in Plattsmouth.
The entire process is coded to allow students to remain completely anonymous. Crisis center officials will assess and prioritize all tips into life-threatening or non-life-threatening submissions. They will then forward the prioritized messages to local officials for them to take action if necessary.
Cass County Sheriff Bill Brueggemann said many students have told him they don’t want to be seen as a tattletale when it comes to reporting worrisome activities. Brueggemann said the Sandy Hook Promise reporting app will allow them to support each other without feeling anxious about the status of their friendship.
“One of our biggest hurdles when it comes to getting information is friendship,” Brueggemann said. “There are a lot of kids who have the idea that they don’t want to snitch on their friends, so they don’t say anything. That’s not really friendship though.
“This allows someone to be a true friend. They can help their best friend by doing something for them.”
Plattsmouth Community Middle School Principal Mark Smith agreed with Brueggemann’s assessment. He said it was important for students in grades 5-8 to feel comfortable about saying something to adults.
“This is something that is truly anonymous,” Smith said. “You never know who reports it, so you don’t have to be worried about someone else finding out. That’s an important thing for students to realize.”
Sandy Hook Promise National Promise Presenter LaShanda Sugg led four training sessions for students throughout the day. She showed groups in grades 5-12 how to download and use the app. She told school administration officials that she was pleased with the way students were engaged with the process.
Hasty said the school district chose the Sandy Hook Promise reporting system for several reasons. He said the organization provided extensive technical and communication support for students and had a solid resume of service elsewhere. It is used in places such as Pennsylvania, California and Texas.
“It’s a very well-oiled machine there,” Hasty said. “They are going to be a very effective support system for the district.”