Safe2Tell, an initiative founded by a former Colorado Springs police detective in the wake of the Columbine High School shooting, could go national thanks to bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican, and Connecticut Democrat James Himes.
The program features a mobile app, hotline and website that allow students, parents or school staff to anonymously report safety concerns.
“It’s one of those things we need in schools for students to feel physically and emotionally safe,” Susan Payne, the director of Safe2Tell Colorado, previously told The Gazette. She began her 25-year career in law enforcement with the Colorado Springs Police Department.
The legislation would provide federal grants — to the tune of $25 million annually — for states to establish and maintain an anonymous, 24/7 monitored venue to alert law enforcement about potential threats of violence at schools, says a news release from Coffman.
At least 21 states have asked for technical assistance since the Parkland, Fla., shooting, the news release says.
“The idea that this model could be used nationally is a wonderful thing as far as we’re concerned — we’re very supportive of the legislation,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, Mike Coffman’s former wife.
The initiative became a program of the state Office of the Attorney General in 2014, a decade after it went live, its website says.
Michigan, Wyoming and Nevada have adopted a version of Colorado’s Safe2Tell model, the release says. But in some cases, a lack of resources has prevented communities from implementing a similar program, Cynthia Coffman said.
“There are communities — sometimes states and sometimes local communities and school districts — that want something like Safe2Tell, but they simply can’t afford it,” she said. The bill could “remove that barrier to having Safe2Tell around the country.”
The program includes training and outreach to help prevent tragedy, Cynthia Coffman said.
“It took a little while to get it started, and we realized we can’t just publish a hotline and put posters up in schools and expect kids are going to understand and call us,” she said.
“We really have to train kids about what this means and why it is a safe place to go with information, and why it’s not snitching if you tell us, ‘Hey, this kid is supposed to bring a gun to school tomorrow.’ Now it’s a part of the culture of most every school in Colorado, and kids are using it more and more every year.”
The number of tips that roll in across Colorado has skyrocketed in recent years, data show. From Aug. 1, 2017, through July 31, Safe2Tell received 16,000 reports — more than a third of the total 46,253 received since its inception.
“Especially since the Parkland (Florida) shooting in February, we’ve really seen the tone change in terms of discussions about how to keep kids safe in schools,” Coffman said. “I think there are people who have always been concerned and serious about it, but something about the Parkland tragedy, and then followed up by the Santa Fe (Texas) High School shooting has really brought this to the forefront in a way I don’t think it has been before, and it is staying a topic of great interest to people as they look for solutions.”
For more information about the program, visit safe2tell.org.