See Something, Say Something

Students Need to Speak Up When Observing Anything Suspicious in School; Adults Need to Open Lines of Communication with Students


Graphic By William Gangnath

In response to recent hazing allegations and then charges for five JV football players at Damascus, all athletic directors held a meeting with fall athletes that reviewed MCPS hazing policies.

In the aftermath of the horrific Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS shooting, there is a desperate desire for solutions to combat the excessive gun violence in America. Through social media campaigns, town halls and global marches, students are fervently demanding national leaders to implement change.

This nationwide push has advocated for a variety of potential solutions to end this heartbreaking and tragic phenomenon. Several solutions require improved communication with each other when students experience anything suspicious or discomforting.

In an effort to prevent terrorism, the post-9/11 Department of Homeland Security advocated that if people “see something” out of the ordinary, they must “say something.” This “See Something, Say Something” movement, initially applied to international terrorism is also relevant and necessary to combat today’s domestic terrorism in the form of mass shootings. However, in order to avoid oversimplification and achieve success, there must be a continual effort to build relationships and clear lines of communication between students and staff to heighten overall awareness.

Most students do not have a close relationship with counselors or staff members. Students are hesitant to use school resources to discuss problems.Whether it be feeling uncomfortable around another student, having a friend with signs of mental illness or witnessing students experimenting with harmful substances, students need to feel comfortable enough to share their concerns with adults.

Staff members must actively advocate for students to speak to them. Following the shooting, Mathematics teacher Carmen Tong encouraged her students to speak to her for help by expressing how important each of their lives are.

“Students spend the majority of their waking hours in school, so it’s crucial that they have someone like a school “mom” or “dad” type that they can talk to about deeper issues within the school building,” Tong said. “For some, there isn’t even a trusted adult at home to talk to, so it’s that much more important for us teachers and staff to be that person they can trust or seek out.”

Students play a critical role in “See Something, Say Something.” Students talk to one another, follow one another on social media and most likely know more than staff members about what is happening among students. Reporting concerns is an essential first step that can bridge the divide between students and adults. Continuously communicating with adults could alert them of students who are bullied and enable them to prevent a deadly tragedy.

RHS can improve counselor-student relations by requiring quarterly counselor-student meetings. This would enable students to have a more personal relationship with counselors. The current back-to-school 10-minute counselor meeting is not enough. Developing personal relationships throughout the school for all four years will develop stronger bonds of trust, encouraging students afraid of making false assumptions or silencing small concerns to step up and say something to counselors.

Counselor Wendy Kiang-Spray said counselors want to work with students to address concerns in the most comfortable way for them.

“Sometimes students are afraid that if they share X, then it will certainly be followed by Y and Z,” Kiang-Spray said. “It is not necessarily this way, and while safety is the most important concern and may involve a protocol, lots of small problems can be solved in a number of ways and counselors can help students figure out the best course of action.”

“See Something, Say Something” can be encouraged from a county and state level as well. According to MCPS’ Operating Budget for the 2019 Fiscal Year, it would cost nearly $5 million to provide the 68 schools with half-time counselor allocations with full-time counselors. Governor Hogan’s proposal for $125 million, used to improve school safety and counseling would cover these costs.

The life-saving potential of a student having a trusted adult must be the priority. Counselors’ presence must increase, funds must be reallocated and students need to understand their vital role in their school’s safety.