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Program allows parents, students to send anonymous tips to school officials

Published: Tuesday, March 5 2013 3:42 p.m. MST

The Salt Lake City School District launched a new program called Safe to Talk on Monday, March 4, 2013. The program allows parents and students to text an anonymous tip to school officials. If students or parents don't have a cellphone, they can send an anonymous tip through the website, www.schooltipline.com.

Marc Weaver, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Educators in the Salt Lake City School District hope a new program will get students and parents to send anonymous tips about everything from a weapon at school to bullying.

The idea behind Safe to Talk is to give kids an easy way to talk, said Kevin Santiago, director of the campaign. The program allows students and parents to anonymously send text messages to school and district officials.

"If we can get the kids to feel like they're safe to have that initial talk, the counselors can then walk them through all the difficulty of, 'Should I talk about this?'" Santiago said.

Santiago said Safe to Talk is in more than 100 Utah schools, including all Salt Lake City School District schools. The Safe to Talk Foundation donated the system.

"Teenagers today, that's how they communicate. They text," said Jason Olsen, spokesman for the Salt Lake City School District.

Not every child has access to a cellphone or feels comfortable sending a text message. For those kids, there's another option: a website where they can submit a tip.

At www.SafetyTipline.com, students can enter their school's name, sign up for an account and then email a tip. They are given a case number, and they can track any action taken after submitting the tip.

Santiago said his office makes sure the students get the help they need.

"It's amazing what happens when you have the two-way communication," he said.

The school has 48 hours to respond to a tip, Santiago said. If nothing has been done, the system will contact the school again. If a tip needs immediate attention, like in a life or death situation, a call will be made to the school to make sure officials see the tip.

Santiago said each school involved in the program can expect two or three tips a week.

Safe To Talk is currently in operation at about 1,000 schools across the country. The foundation hopes to be in more than 10,000 by 2016.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc 

E-mail: jstagg@ksl.com

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