CHEYENNE, Wyo.- Laramie County School District #1 says the safety of their students and faculty is a number one priority.
With recent events including several mass school shootings around the country and even a recent threat at one of Cheyenne's local high schools, how to deal with the issue is something that's on many minds.
There's a program, however, that's helping get to the problem before it actually happens. The confidential tip-line that the Wyoming Legislature passed back in 2016 called "Safe2Tell" lets students, staff and community members report a variety of tips to law enforcement and their school. Program Manager Bill Morse said, "If you can intervene before something happens, that’s a much better place to be than to have to go in after the fact."
Both Morse and Assistant Superintendent of Support Operations at LCSD#1 Dave Bartlett say many times students are the ones that are aware of a threat and have information that may help. At the same time, Morse says many of those students never come forward because they either 1. Don't want to betray their friends, or 2. Get bullied and be labeled a snitch.
To help provide a safe way to report those concerns and remain anonymous, Safe2Tell Wyoming lets individuals submit a tip by either calling 1-844-WYO-SAFE, submitting online at www.safe2tellwy.org, or using a mobile app.
So far since its introduction in 2016, the program has already received more than 900 tips across the state. Morse said, "For a state about the size of Wyoming, roughly 90,000 students in the state, we’ve gotten a significant number of tips since the program has started." Furthermore, just last month, officials say they received almost 80 tips.
After the recent threat of a potential active shooter at East High School, Bartlett said, "‘The frequency of these types of concerns and students bringing these things forward is probably more common than what the community is aware.” However, both he and Morse say many of these incidents and rumors get attention and handled before anything can happen.
Morse said the safety program was initially started in Colorado after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. He said, "What they found when they looked in that shooting was that students knew what was going on but they failed to report it.” He added, "In 81% percent of violent incidents at schools, someone other than the person that was going to do the harm knew it was going to happen but failed to speak up."
Individuals who use the service can choose from 38 categories to report from including bullying, a school fight and the one seen most often: suicide threats. Morse says the only thing they see is the tip including the threat and any additional specifics that can help them. However, the mobile app also allows them to have a two-way dialog with the tipster if more details are needed.
The program manager of Safe2Tell Wyoming says they continuously visit schools and put on assemblies, provide school posters and help spread the word, but there is a goal to help spread that word even more. Morse added, "If something is going on at your school, speak up. Don’t be afraid to speak up and say something. Be a hero. If you don’t speak up, who’s going to?”