Safe Schools Maryland is a free and anonymous reporting system designed for students, teachers, school staff members, parents, and the public to report school or student safety concerns.
The system allows reports to be filed through an app, website, or over the phone at 1-833-MD-B-SAFE. Information on all options is available at www.safeschoolsmd.org.
There’s not a limit to the types of concerns that can be shared through the system as reports have varied from bullying and cyberbullying, planned school attacks, drugs, guns, assaults, building safety, bus safety, child abuse and neglect, smoking and more.
The reporting system, which was launched by then Governor Larry Hogan in 2018, is overseen by the Maryland Center for School Safety (MCSS). The MCSS serves as an independent unit within the Maryland State Department of Education that provides grants, training and support to schools and special education throughout Maryland.
“We really want to use this system as a prevention tool,” said Sandra Caldwell, a school safety analyst with MCSS.
School safety, particularly bullying, has become a focal point for some area schools and residents following a viral video taken in the cafeteria of Severna Park High School (SPHS) that showed a student with special needs being threatened and bullied by another teenager. Some parents and students have expressed frustration on how bullying incidents have traditionally been handled, or dismissed, at the school.
SPHS Principal Lindsay Abruzzo pledged her school won’t tolerate bullying moving forward, and she’s spearheaded initiatives, such as a shoe design contest, in response to the recent high-profile incident. School officials said anti-bullying and kindness seminars have been taking place at the school over the past couple of months. A request to the school from this publication to attend one of the seminars was denied.
As of March 12, SPHS has fielded eight reported cases of bullying in its hallways this school year — the most for SPHS in a single school year since at least 2018. Broadneck High School has taken in four reports so far this school year. According to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, about one out of five students in the U.S. report being bullied while just 46% of bullied students report notifying an adult at their school.
Caldwell stressed that even if a student doesn’t feel comfortable sharing a concern with school officials, just telling any adult can be helpful. Some reports that come through Safe Schools Maryland have the wording “my child told me.”
“We always encourage students to first tell a trusted adult,” Caldwell said.
Tip takers at Safe Schools Maryland are available 24/7 regardless of how the tip is submitted. Once a tip is received, it’s forwarded to the school or school system contact that is provided to the center.
“Every school or school system gets to decide who their contact is,” Caldwell said. “The 24/7 aspect of this system makes it more convenient.”
Caldwell said that bullying and cyberbullying tips are the most received this school year, although there has been a sharp increase in suicide threats and mental health concern reports since December.
Planned school attacks were the most reported category through the Safe Schools Maryland system last school year. Caldwell said social media challenges were a major reason, with one being a copycat school attack template that was the culprit for 50 tips alone at a single school.
“A lot of our tips do relate to what’s happening in the world,” Caldwell said.
A U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Secret Service report titled “2021 Averting Targeted School Violence: A U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Plots Against Schools” reports that 84% of averted school attacks and 77% of completed school attacks were communicated about with others before the incident occurred, or was thwarted, based on a study of 43 select plotters and 35 select attackers.
Caldwell said traditionally bystanders have decided to not make a report because they didn't know who to report it to, how to report it, or were scared for fear of retaliation. Safe Schools Maryland officials aim to alleviate each of those factors.
“Nobody is going to look into who’s making the tip,” Caldwell said. “Their focus is on solving the problem.”