STEM school

Bouquets adorn the sign outside the STEM School Highlands Ranch after the May 7 mass shooting there.

Tips to Colorado’s anonymous system for students and adults to report safety concerns increased by 28% for the fiscal year that ended July 31 over the previous year, Safe2Tell said Tuesday.

The top five issues: suicide threats, drugs, bullying, self-harm and school complaints.

That “significant increase” is partly tied to heightened awareness after the May 7 shooting at the STEM School, said Attorney General Phil Weiser, whose office oversees the program. One student died at the charter school in Highlands Ranch in Douglas County while trying to stop two shooters.

April’s 20th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton also increased residents’ concern, Weiser said.

“This past school year, Colorado was forced to reflect on past incidents of school violence while grappling with unexpected threats and tragedies,” he said in a news release.

“Safe2Tell data mirrored this reality with significant increases in overall tips and duplicate tips, demonstrating that students feel more comfortable using the system to report potential threats around them.”

The statewide line received 19,861 actionable tips last school year, excluding duplicates, pranks and hang-up calls. The previous year saw 15,479 tips.

Local law enforcement and school districts reported that 2.42% of the tips were false, meaning they contained false information and were filed “with the intent to harm, injure or bully another person.”

That’s down from 3.3% percent false reports the previous school year.

A Colorado Springs police officer started the nonprofit Safe2Tell in 2004 in response to the 1999 shootings at Columbine. The program is now statewide and state-funded.

Students or adults can anonymously call 1-877-542-7233, use a mobile app or submit a report online seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Under state law, all tips are analyzed and receive follow-up contact from local law enforcement, school districts or both to determine whether they are credible.

Over the summer, when calls historically drop because school is out, calls to the tip line have continued to increase, officials said.

Weiser’s office cites social media bullying as a contributing factor, with July’s 551 tips representing an 81% increase over last July. May saw an 84% increase in tips over May 2018.

One July tip requested a welfare check on a student, and when police and medical officials responded, they took the student to a hospital.

Another tip about a weapon resulted in police arresting a juvenile on a weapons charge.

Cyberbullying continues to be a problem among teens, said Essi Ellis, director of Safe2Tell, in the news release.

She encourages families to talk to their children about “treating everyone with respect and the long-lasting ramifications of their digital footprints.”

“Using online platforms to bully or harass another individual is a serious issue that carries legal consequences,” Ellis said. “When it comes to your online activities, always think about what you post before doing so.”

Said Weiser: “Year after year, Safe2Tell is proving to be an invaluable tool and trusted resource that helps students break the code of silence and prevent further tragedies.”

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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