May 27, 2022 - News

Safe2Tell remains Colorado's key tool to battle school violence

Data: Colorado Attorney General’s office; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

An anonymous tip line created in response to 1999's Columbine school shooting is poised to record more than 18,000 reports of threats this school year.

Why it matters: Safe2Tell is the front line in Colorado's effort to prevent school violence, and remains as relevant as ever after the deadly shooting at a Texas elementary school this week.

Threat level: The volume of threats is expected to increase this week, as is typical after a school shooting takes place, and officials are urging people to call the hotline if they see anything out of the ordinary.

  • A report of a weapon at Northfield High School in Denver briefly locked down the campus Thursday but it was later determined to be a paintball gun.
  • Boulder police arrested a 14-year-old on Wednesday for threatening a shooting at a middle school.

By the numbers: So far this school year, the state has received 266 Safe2Tell reports of planned school attacks, significantly up from the prior year but closer to par with pre-pandemic numbers, according to annual reports and officials in the attorney general's office, which oversees the program.

  • The majority of all tips are related to suicide threats, bullying and drugs, with 95% actionable.
  • The remainder are false reports (2%) and non-malicious misuse such as prank calls (3%).

The big picture: Earlier this school year, total Safe2Tell reports topped the 100,000 mark since the tip line’s inception in 2004.

  • The numbers for this academic year represent an increase from the 2020-21 term but the figure remains below the record of 22,332 in the 2018-19 year.

What they're saying: The elevated figures are not entirely a bad sign, says program director Stacey Jenkins. "We are encouraged that students are speaking up when they do have concerns," she told us.

  • "Students know before adults do. They are connected with their peers in the way adults are not," she added.

How it works: Safe2Tell accepts tips via mobile app, the internet and phone (877-542-7233) and every report is reviewed by an analyst and sent to local teams.

  • Each response includes information for mental health crisis services, and often a request for more information.
  • The most common outcomes are parental notification and welfare checks.

Between the lines: The connection to mental health counseling through the Colorado Crisis Services is part of an overhaul in recent years to better streamline the state's responses to threats.

What to watch: The greatest challenge facing the tip line is awareness.

  • A recent survey conducted by the program's student ambassador group found discrepancies in what people knew about the program or how to share a tip.
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