DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Ask a school leader anywhere about safety and you’ll probably get a familiar answer: “safety is always a priority.”
Now Dallas ISD is looking to add another layer of protection by putting a new tool in the hands of students.
“You’re going to want to access the ‘Say Something’ app,” says Rachel Ramos, a student in the School of Science and Engineering at the Yvonne Ewell Townview Magnet Center. “Just submit a tip and then you’ll select your school…scroll through. There’s a lot you can do.”
The app recognizes that teens are more comfortable navigating life online, and school leaders are looking to use this digital presence to encourage students to anonymously report anything that might pose a danger to themselves or for the school community. This includes behavioral changes, intimidation, access to weapons, etc.
“And it can be something like a school shooting – things at that level – but it can also be when students feel overwhelmed and sometimes they say to a friend, ‘You know, I’m thinking about hurting myself. ‘,” says Susana Cordova, assistant superintendent of Dallas ISD. “And you can report it and just say something.”
The Say Something app is available to high school students in the district, connecting them anonymously to a national crisis center hotline that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Students and members of the community can also send advice via a web page or a telephone helpline.
Mental health issues are referred to local campuses. An imminent threat will trigger a 911 call to the police.
“We send all our children to school in the morning and think they will be taken care of,” says Cordova, who is a mother herself. “And when something like that happens tragically, we find ourselves grappling with the incredible concept that kids aren’t coming home. It’s really a wake-up call that we need to do something different.”
Finding the courage to “say something” is a start.
“And you know, for the most part, all of our schools are very safe,” Cordova says. “These tragic and horrific incidents are just a truly critical reminder that it is incumbent on all of us – inside and outside of school – to step up when we know there are problems. “
So school leaders are also encouraging parents to do homework over the summer and have those conversations that remind their teens that we can all play a part in just coming home.
“That’s what we all want,” Ramos says. “We want our loved ones, our family to be safe. We want to trust that we can go to school and get an education without fearing for our lives.”