A bipartisan group of Colorado lawmakers has backed a bill that would save the state’s financially strapped anonymous school violence tip line by providing public funding and putting the program under the jurisdiction of the state’s attorney general’s office.
Currently run by an independent, nonprofit organization, Safe2Tell was created at the recommendation of a task forced formed following the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School near Littleton. Students can anonymously report concerns about their peers’ plans to harm themselves or others through a phone line or on the Safe2Tell website. Those tips are then quickly forwarded to law enforcement agencies and schools, who determine if and how to intervene.
It seems like a simple intervention, but a safe, organized method of reporting is a crucial tool for preventing school violence, experts have said. In 82 percent of violent incidents at U.S. schools, someone other than the attacker knew the incident was going to occur, but they failed to report it, according to a U.S. Secret Service report.
Since the beginning of the current school year, the tip line has received reports of 16 planned attacks in the state’s schools, the Denver Post reported.
In 2012, 42 planned school attacks were received, more than half in December after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Since Safe2Tell was created in Colorado at the suggestion of the Columbine Commission in 2004, the hotline has received 282 reports of planned school attacks. All were investigated by law enforcement and school officials: 251 were classified as high-risk threats, and 31 were called very high risk—prevented just in time 'Explosives, hit list, plans—everything was ready to go,' executive director Susan Payne said."
The program has been heralded by school safety experts and mimicked in other states. Most recently, Michigan created and funded its own anonymous reporting system.
Payne, a law enforcement veteran, has also served on the President’s White House Conference on School Violence Prevention. Here’s a 2013 presentation she gave to the Council of State Governments’ Education and Health Public Policy committees about Colorado’s school safety efforts and some of Safe2Tell’s successes.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.