Anonymous reporting apps can help students speak up before threats become actions

Many districts are taking a renewed look at their systems in place to keep students safe.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 11:37 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Nightmares like the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas are what school districts everywhere are trying to avoid every day.

But, in the wake of that shooting, many districts are taking a renewed look at their systems in place to keep students safe.

Experts have a variety of ideas: gun control laws, safe storage at home, more law enforcement between the lockers.

Some districts are also looking to identify and neutralize the person who is a potential threat–before they have a chance to act.

That’s part of Rob Santarsiero’s job as the law enforcement coordinator at Brazos County Texas Crime Stoppers. His office is located about 250 miles from Uvalde.

Years ago, his Crime Stoppers office teamed up with the P3 Campus reporting app and two large local school districts, Bryan and College Station ISDs. Now, both have a version of the app where students, parents, or anyone can report a potential threat.

In a one-page form with only one mandatory response, users can offer as little or as much information as they want about the perceived threat. That information is then sent instantaneously to Santarsiero and his 24/7 Crime Stoppers team.

“We can act, and we can act very rapidly,” Santarsiero said. “A lot of times, that’s all this needs.”

For threats, Santarsiero said the school district will be immediately involved, as will local law enforcement.

Jefferson County Public Schools has a similar anonymous reporting system, although it’s not available as an app. The interface also takes more time to navigate, with more clicks, forms, pages, and mandatory answers.

Santarsiero said the important thing is to have an anonymous reporting system in the first place, as JCPS does, but he said that simplifying the process can produce better results, and more of them.

“We want to make it easy,” Santarsiero said. “We don’t want it overly complicated. Sometimes making things overly complicated, yeah, it’s going to turn away information that might be literally saving a life.”

Another difference between P3 systems and JCPS’s process: a JCPS tip goes to the district directly, to the internal audit team, not to a 24/7 outside operation like Crime Stoppers.

JCPS also told WAVE News that administrators stress the importance of reporting to their students: “We encourage all of our students and staff to follow our see something, say something safety rule.”

As for the app P3 campus, it costs money. A reporting app that doesn’t is the Sandy Hook Promise “Say Something” app.

“Really so much of this is preventable,” Mark Barden of Sandy Hook Promise said.

As a father of a Sandy Hook victim himself, Mark Barden wants the violence to stop. The nonprofit’s app sends tips to a 24/7 crisis counseling center that organizes a response from there.

“They’re saving lives, and they’re improving the culture and climate of the school where we serve them,” Barden said.

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WAVE — Louisville and Southern Indiana's NBC affiliate. Follow us on Twitter & Instagram @wave3news.(WAVE)

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