If You See Something, Say Something

Are students comfortable reporting behavior they find suspicious or threatening?

Photo of Lisa Parish
3 23

Written by

How might we encourage our students to feel comfortable reporting suspicious, strange, or threatening online activity? 

Let's face it, it has become the 'norm' for our school children to know how to safely exit buildings during a fire drill and how to "Stop, Drop, and Roll"  Why is that? Simple - they practice it and a lot! 

We need to design innovative ways in our classrooms and our communities to encourage our students to report  any suspicious, strange, or threatening activity they may see online, and make it the new cultural norm.  Students could earn badges as they go through a simulation to practice reporting suspicious behavior. The Des Moines Public School district is piloting a program where students can report suspicious activity anonymously though an app for their high school students, which may lead to financial reward if it leads to preventing or solving a crime.

At all levels, we need to give our students the level of comfort and confidence they need that if they do something out of the ordinary they will report it.

Share research or student experiences that informed your idea!

After the Florida shooting, I was talking to my high school students that we all have a responsibility to report any activity online that is out of the ordinary, and they all agreed with me. But as our conversation turned into one about their daily lives, my students told me it was difficult to "tell on" people because they don't think everyone means everything they post online and they don't want to "snitch" and get people in trouble for little things.


Join the conversation:

Photo of John Faig

Great idea. Aside from the important questions raised by @greg Lau, I think students should also be taught to raise community issues that are not specifically related to a particular incident.

Photo of Greg Lau

Glad someone is taking the initiative to help students take initiative!

Some elements to help stimulate methods and ideas:

1) help students develop crisis management abilities by learning to develop a 360 observation of the situation

2) learn differences between yellow flag or red flag content and what is a false alarm and when to report, who to report to, and perhaps be trained to fulfill certain criteria before "crying wolf."

3) as people become more disconnected from their surroundings, proactive action is declining in the physical world and with digital pollution on the rise, proactivity is even more paramount in the wake of mass shootings

4) aside from reporting, how should students react or act within themselves when they encounter yellow and red flags (going to leave this broad on purpose)?

5) consequences of crying wolf with no wolf.
6) support exercises to stimulate courage and taking initiative

7) leadership training-- these qualities are important and a prerequisite for taking initiative

8)acting alone is hard-- how do we take action alone when others think we are just overreacting?

9) supporting others who see a red flag and partnering with each other to take action helps encourage pro activity--doing it alone is hard --and the main reason why people don't act!

10)confidence to act. What other supporting qualities will encourage appropriate action and what qualities lead to inaction and apathy?

Photo of Lisa Parish

Greg, your ideas are fantastic! I love the idea of teaching students the difference between yellow flags and red flags., and provide them a concrete way to visualize not only how to have the courage to report but also how they react themselves when they encounter yellow and red flags. I feel that many of older students have become desensitized to content they see on social media. One of the Teachers Guild Fellows, Theresa Shadrix, is creating a leadership program (CEOs of the Classroom). I will share some of your ideas with her; these are awesome. Moving forward, I would imagine a collaborative effort by educators, administrators, social workers, and local law enforcement would best be able to discriminate between yellow and red flags.