YORK, Pa. — Officials at many area school districts are having a difficult conversation with students, the day after a deadly school shooting in Florida left 17 people dead.
Part of that conversation includes spreading the importance of the message “if you see something, say something.”
Some schools may train for active shooter situations, but both police and school administrators hope students will speak up in advance, if they see or hear anything out of the ordinary to help prevent another tragedy.
The message is making its way through many school hallways in central Pennsylvania.
West York Area High School assistant principal Catherine Kveragas said “if they see something, they need to say something to us, so to really report concerns. We have something here at our school, they can do it anonymously, through an online app. So I’ve talked to students about that, that if they have any concerns about any other students to let us know.”
It’s important for students to be proactive and share those suspicions with school administrators or police before a tragedy, not after.
It’s better to over report, than under report, and that’s something we tell our students, if you have any questions, let us be the ones to dig through that information, dig through the details and do what needs to be do,” Kveragas said.
Hampden Township Police Chief Steve Junkin said “if you have that gut feeling, if you’re seeing a post on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, whatever it is, let us know about it, so we can at least look at it.”
“People know when something isn’t right. They know when somebody is exhibiting strange behaviors, saying things that are inappropriate, and it’s that kind of thing that makes you have a second guess,” Junkin said.
Police may be able to use that tip to hopefully prevent another deadly situation, by talking with someone before they become a suspect.
“See what the person has to say, maybe talk to them about what other people are observing, and then we are looking at cues. How is that person interacting with us, is there something more there,” Junkin said.
Police use those cues to help determine if the person being questioned, has the ability to carry out a threat.
“Does the person have the ability to carry out that threat, there are crimes codes sections, terroristic threats, or whatever, that could be brought against somebody,” Junkin said.
“We can seek mental health help for them. We can ensure that they don’t have weapons in their house,” Junkin added.
Meanwhile, students may help keep other kids safe by being the eyes and ears of their community.
“That gets us narrowed down in the right direction. Then, we can start looking at these things from a professional standpoint. Look at the mental health issues, look at what weapons they have, do that research, and hopefully intercede, and get in front of a tragedy,” Junkin said.
“I think it’s really important that our students have good strong relationships with the adults here, so whether they report it to a teacher, report it to a guidance counselor, or an administrator, we have had those situations and we were able to do what we needed to do,” Kveragas said.
The goal for administrators and police, is to ensure that every school remains a safe place for students.
“We want it to be safe, and them to feel safe here, so to let us know is the important part,” Kveragas said.
Some experts believe it may be time to change the saying “if you see something, say something,” to “if you know something, do something,” which may encourage people to become more proactive.