Wyoming Education Association

Summer 2019

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Teaching and Learning 23 Saving Lives One Tip at a Time: Inside Wyoming's Safe2Tell Program By Amanda Turner In February a student was arrested for making terroristic threats against a school in Fremont County School District 2. Last December, authorities were alerted to the potential for planned attacks at two Casper high schools. These potential tragedies were averted because of tips submitted through the Wyoming Safe2Tell tip line. Wyoming's Safe2Tell program is a confi dential tip line for students, staff and community members to report threats of violence, or other safety issues, or concerning behaviors that could aff ect the safety and well-being of students in schools. Wyoming instituted the Safe2Tell program out of the attorney general's offi ce in October of 2016. The program follows a framework mandated in Senate File 97, passed earlier that year. The bill requires that the attorney general acts as administrator for a call center and delivers collected information to schools and law enforcement while keeping tipsters' identities confi dential, following the model of an existing Safe2Tell program in Colorado. Colorado's Safe2Tell program found its genesis in the wake of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado, which claimed the lives of 12 students and one teacher. After Columbine, in 2002, the US Secret Service conducted a study that shed a disturbing light surrounding premeditated acts of violence on school grounds. "That study showed that in 81% of the incidents of violence at schools, someone other than the perpetrator knew that it was going to happen, but failed to say something," says Wyoming Safe2Tell Program Manager Bill Morse, "that sparked the interest and identity of this program." According to Morse, Safe2Tell Wyoming has received more than 1,000 tips in the 2018-2019 school year which amounts to a 53% increase over the previous year. As of April 2019, Safe2Tell Wyoming had fi elded 2,605 tips including tips about planned school attacks and at least 15 gun-related tips. Safe2Tell also aims to be a resource for those struggling with thoughts of self-harm. Last year the Wyoming Department of Health released fi ndings detailing that in Wyoming, on average, one person dies by suicide every two days. Suicide rates in Wyoming are consistently higher than the US rates. "We certainly have successes with threats of suicide amongst young people. In looking at our data, we know that we've saved lives," says Morse. "Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week: We are available when school is not in session. Christmas Break, through the summer. Many times, students have a support system in place when they're in school and when school lets out their support system is gone. We encourage them to reach out through Safe2Tell so that we can connect them with the best resources." The state law mandating the Safe2Tell program protects the confi dentiality of any person reporting a tip. Morse believes that tipsters' confi dentiality contributes to the program's success. "Students don't want to be seen down at the principal's offi ce making a report," says Morse, "this gives them that means to communicate without being identifi ed." There are three ways to reach out to Safe2Tell Wyoming: through their mobile app, web page, or toll-free number. All three methods of communication are encrypted and confi dential. Morse encourages students, school staff , and community members to never hesitate when it comes to contacting Safe2Tell, saying, "you don't always know what you have maybe prevented because of a tip that came in." Need to Know Safe2Tell Wyoming: • Established in 2016. • As of April 2019, 2,605 tips have been received. • Tip numbers correlate to population size with the majority of tips coming from larger cities like Cheyenne, Casper and Gillette. • The top fi ve tips (by volume) received in April 2019 related to vaping, suicide threats, bullying, self-harm and drugs, in that order. • Safe2Tell Wyoming operates on about $275,000 per year, funds coming from federal dollars allocated by the Wyoming Offi ce of Homeland Security. • Less than 1% off all calls to Safe2Tell are false alarms, pranks, or misuse of the tip line. • Educators can coordinate presentations, and assemblies with Safe2Tell Wyoming, as well as request branded giveaway items for students. Three Ways to Report: • 1-844-WYO-SAFE (996-7233) • safe2tellwy.org • Mobile app – Free and available through the Google Play and Apple App S tore

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