If you see something, say something – that is just one strategy the Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools is using to keep the community safe, and a recently launched Safe School Helpline is reinforcing it.
“Because we place a high priority on safety in our district, Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools encourages students and parents to report anything they see or hear that may create a safety concern for our students and staff,” said Steve Barrett, district superintendent. “We want to provide as many ways to do so as possible, to assure those reports can be made quickly and easily.”
He said the Safe School Helpline, launched in January, provides one of those channels and allows the caller to voice a concern anonymously if desired.
The helpline, 1-800-418-6423, ext. 359, is a 24-hour-a-day service designed so callers can anonymously identify and address mental health issues and potential safety concerns before they become a crisis.
The helpline also can be accessed by text at 66746, message “tips,” and at safeschoolhelpline.com.
Helpline users receive an identification number when they call in, enabling them to call back and get an update regarding what has been done to address the situation they reported.
Jeff Collett, the district’s technology director, said this year’s cost of the service contract with Security Voice Inc. is $6,255, based on the district’s enrollment.
He said the funding is coming out of the district’s technology account.
The helpline has been well received, according to Barrett.
“While we have not had many concerning reports, we have received positive feedback from our parents and staff,” he said. “Students received pamphlets and refrigerator magnets printed with the Safe School Helpline information, to take home as a visual reminder that if they see something, we want them to say something.”
Lisa Kelley, the district’s administrator of school-based prevention and counseling, said conditions in students’ lives and environments must be in order if they are to be successful.
“When students have unmet mental health needs, they can turn into significant barriers for academic, behavior and emotional growth,” she said. “If left unaddressed, such barriers can compromise school safety. It is very important that we are as proactive as possible in the area of mental health and emotional well-being, so that students can reach their full potential.”
The helpline came to fruition following a Safety Town Hall last year, when the topic of mental health came up several times, according to Kelley.
After hearing from the community, the district took proactive steps to establish the helpline as part of a multi-faceted plan.
Kelley said the helpline won’t be the final step in creating safer schools.
“I am proud to be a part of a district that puts students first in every way, including in their physical and emotional safety,” she said.
“We live in an age with access to more information, both positive and negative, than ever before,” Collett said. “It’s also an age in which timing is everything. It is important for our district to provide students, parents and staff with a way to reach out and communicate any type of threat or instance anonymously and in a timely manner.”
The district encourages calling the helpline regarding any information involving a situation that could be threatening to students and staff, including thoughts of suicide or self-harm, violence, weapons, drugs and alcohol, bullying and/or theft.
Barrett said the district continues to work collaboratively with the Gahanna Division of Police and values its support.
“There are times when we have reported causes for concern, and the GPD has responded swiftly and thoroughly to investigate our reports,” he said. “Police Chief Jeff Spence and his outstanding team of officers communicate with us often and are extremely helpful.”