WASHINGTON — The string of school shootings this year has school systems across the nation ramping up security in the new academic year. In Virginia, Stafford County Public Schools has just added a tip line to its mobile app.
Like many school mobile apps, Stafford County’s provides news and information. But, with the embedded tip line, which launched Tuesday, students can check a box, identify the school where the issue has cropped up and anonymously submit it.
“We have several categories with this app. We have bullying, drugs, inappropriate behavior, safety risk, self-harm, threat, vandalism and weapons,” said Sherrie Johnson, director of the office of strategic communication and community engagement for Stafford County Public Schools.
In addition to choosing a category, the user would also identify the appropriate school and can submit the tip anonymously. School officials are responsible for investigating behaviors that violate school rules; the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office will handle any tips regarding criminal matters.
“We had a system in place that only used the telephone and we hardly got any calls at all. So, we think the app is going to produce more information,” said Gregory Martin, director of safety, security and risk management for the school system.
The new app-based tip line is being promoted with banners in some of the schools (with some 29,500 students). “We want to encourage people to use this so we can prevent a tragedy from happening,” Johnson said.
The information is vital in averting threats, according to security experts. A submitted tip will be funneled to members of the School Safety and Security Department, the principal and assistant principal of the school involved, and the sheriff’s department.
“The faster we know about the information, the quicker we can respond, and the quicker we can save lives and protect people,” Martin said.