Students, parents and staff members who are privy to threats or want to air concerns about safety in St. Paul Public Schools now have a means to speak up anonymously.
The district has added a “Send a Tip” feature to its MySPPS app in hopes of getting a heads-up on issues relating to drugs, thefts, weapons or other concerns.
In a news release, Superintendent Joe Gothard said students often are aware of potential trouble before adults. But sometimes, he said, “they just need a safe and easy way to report issues without fear of embarrassment or retaliation.”
When tips are submitted, they will be reviewed by the district’s emergency communications center.
The district piloted the reporting tool two years ago at Highland Park middle and senior high schools and received a “handful of tips” that were acted on and investigated, said Laurie Olson, district director of security and emergency management.
“While we did not receive many tips or concerns, we still see the value in the system,” she said Wednesday. “We want all our students to understand the important role they play in creating safe schools. We want to empower them to come forward with any concerns they may have.”
The district also offers an online reporting option at spps.org/safety.
Other local school systems also have created ways to receive alerts about possible incidents.
The Anoka-Hennepin, Mahtomedi and Osseo districts collect tips online on situations involving drugs and weapons, as well as bullying and vandalism — and, in the case of Mahtomedi and Osseo, suicide risks, as well.
Osseo also has set up a phone line: 763-391-8660.
Mahtomedi Superintendent Mark Larson said the district has received 237 tips since launching its “Quick Tip” feature in November 2014.
“Some are really good tips that are actionable and can get positive results,” he said. “We have had a student say something like, ‘I think so-and-so is cutting him/herself’ or ‘So-and-so is being bullied,’ and our principals or counselors can intervene on the student’s behalf. We’ve also had tips about how snowy it was yesterday, and we should have canceled school. Overall, though, it is very positive.”
Anoka-Hennepin stops short of offering full anonymity by requiring an e-mail address and a student’s grade level in the event an administrator wants to contact the tipster for more information.
“Tips are taken very seriously,” the district’s web page states. “If submitted information is found to be false, consequences may follow.”
Minneapolis Public Schools encourages students to a call a national hotline, 1-866-SPEAK-UP, if they know of any threats of violence at the schools. A district web page states that the hotline is staffed with counselors who have access to translators in 140 languages.