Safe Schools: Everyone Has a Role

On the day after the 9/11 attacks, an executive for a New York advertising agency that included New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority as one of its clients wrote down an idea for a slogan that he hoped would save lives:  If You See Something, Say Something.

It didn’t take long for our U.S. Department of Homeland Security to adopt this slogan in its work to keep us all safe from terrorism and terrorism-related crime.  For many years now, the Department has been running a national safety campaign around this little slogan.  The Department encourages us all to be a part of this strategy, believing that a safe community requires the joint effort of all community members

I was reminded of this slogan last week in the aftermath of an investigation into the presence of a prohibited weapon found in a PMHS backpack.  One of the results of this investigation concluded that more than one student was aware that the weapon was in school for a period of time, but chose not to report it.

Of course, most folks – including and especially adolescents – tend to shy away from making reports that may implicate a peer in wrongdoing.  We all know the names that are used to describe such reporters.  Most of these names are negative and suggest labels that most folks would like to avoid:  rat, Judas, traitor, squealer, tattletale, betrayer, snitch, stoolie, and on and on.

One of our Pittsfield educators, however, raised two questions about what it might feel like if one of us knew of a potentially dangerous situation and kept quiet about it, asking

  • How would I feel if one if one of my schoolmates were injured at school?
  • How would I feel if my silence resulted in that injury?

The Department of Homeland Security believes that a safe community requires the joint effort of community members.  The more observant and involved individuals are in their daily lives, the less likely crime will occur undetected… resulting in safer towns and cities across the nation.

Having served as a school administrator for more than thirty-five years, I have received innumerable reports from students regarding issues of concern and threats to safety, including reports of peer wrongdoing.  The sources of these reports have been held in confidence, being shared only with the permission of the reporting student or family member.  Student willingness to share this sort of information has resulted in a greater degree of safety and security in the schools.

In this context, I strongly encourage students, friends, and family members to report activity that may pose a threat to students and adults in our Pittsfield schools.  I encourage parents and guardians to advise students to speak with a responsible adult when a safety threat is known.  Reports of this nature can be held in confidence and will allow school officials to keep our schools safe for everybody.

Whether it’s a potential threat of terrorism or a potential threat to school safety for our children, youth, or adults, we all play a role in keeping our community safe.

If you see something, say something.  It just may make a big difference for all of us.