Middle and high school students in Jackson County Public Schools can now report suspicious or potentially harmful behavior using a new smartphone app. Through a partnership between The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the nonprofit organization Sandy Hook Promise, the Say Something Reporting App is available to all local school districts across the state at no cost.
Students and parents can access the system 24 hours a day, 365 days a year through the app, by email, or by phone. Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Elliott said the new system is a perfect fit with the district's ongoing effort to maintain safety as a top priority. "We appreciate the zero-cost tool provided by the state to help our students continue our 'see something, say something' initiative," Elliott said.
According to Assistant Superintendent Jacob Buchanan, the cost of building a similar system locally would be enormous. "For us as a district to have something staffed 24/7, 365 with people who have that skillset and level of training would be extremely expensive," he said. "It would be tens of thousands of dollars every year."
Tips and concerns submitted through the Say Something Reporting App are fielded and triaged by trained personnel at a call center in Miami, Florida. The system features two-way communication, so staff at the call center can engage in conversation with reporting parties to understand the situation better and determine if there is an immediate threat or crisis that involves life-safety.
Local law enforcement including school resource officers, emergency management and dispatchers also received training. Any report that is determined to be a critical life emergency will be forwarded to Jackson County first responders who can take immediate action.
Each JCPS school has a trained team of administrators and counselors who will receive reports from the call center and address non-emergency safety concerns or intervene with individuals who are at risk of harming themselves or others. Local teams can also forward information to schools in other participating districts if a report involves students from one of those schools.
Despite an exceptionally low rate of violent behavior in Jackson County Public Schools, Buchanan believes the district cannot become complacent about school safety.
"When you look at the school shootings that have taken place," Buchanan said, "there is nothing out of the ordinary about those communities, so there is absolutely potential for something tragic to happen anywhere. The whole spirit behind the Say Something Reporting App is to give kids an opportunity to anonymously report anything to people who can take action and prevent something from happening."