HARRISBURG – The anonymous tip line for passing on possible school threats was used more than 400 times in the week since it launched, Joe Grace, a spokesman for Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
The Safe2Say tipline, was created by Act 44, which was passed by the state Legislature and provided the attorney general with $600,000 to launch it. It launched on Jan. 14.
A total of 426 tips were made, as of Friday, using the tip line (1-844-723-2729), a website: www.safe2saypa.org; or a smartphone app. Pennsylvania has 501 school districts and the tips on the hotline have come from across the state, Grace said.
“This is going to be a very important enhancement in student safety and those tips show that,” Grace said.
There was at least one stumble on Wednesday morning, as Midd-West High School in Snyder County was placed on lockdown after a tip there were weapons at the school was filed through Safe2Say. The tip turned out to be a hoax and authorities there are investigating.
Grace said the attorney general’s office was not immediately prepared to detail how many of those tips revealed actual threats of violence.
Grace said the attorney general’s office has been helped by partnering with Sandy Hook Promise, which has allowed the Pennsylvania program to use the group’s technology to build the Safe2Say Something app, which allows students to submit written tips on their smartphones.
In October, Nicole Hockley, managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, joined Shapiro and Sen. Pat Browne at a Harrisburg event to promote the launch of the new tip program.
Hockley’s son Dylan was one of the 20 children, who along with six adults were killed in the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
She said that while the organization has conducted training in all 50 states, this Pennsylvania initiative is the group’s first statewide effort.
Browne authored the legislation creating the tip program.
“This anonymity is the key,” Browne said. “Students may not feel comfortable bringing the actions, comments or behavior of their fellow classmates to the attention of authority if they must identify themselves in the process.”
Through the system, reports of threats deemed by tip-line staff as posing a life-safety threat will be forwarded both to the school and the 911 center in the area where the school is located, according to the Pennsylvania School Board Association.
Tips that don’t suggest anyone’s life is in immediate danger are forwarded to school staff. Each school is supposed to have a team of three to five staff members assigned to respond to tips, according to the PSBA.
While the program is intended to provide students with a means of passing along information about threats, it can be used by anyone.