Tennessee districts to start school year with new app for reporting threats

Special Reports

(Photo: WKRN)

WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – The start of the school year is quickly approaching and with that, comes concerns about school threats.

Starting this school year, districts across Tennessee will have a new tool to help them stop an attack before it unfolds.

“Safety is the number one priority at Wilson County Schools,” said Bart Barker, spokesperson for Wilson County Schools.

Upholding that priority takes technology for staff and students.

Wilson County has the Stop It reporting app at all four of its high schools, alongside a reporting website at Wilson Central High School.

“This is the website right here, our homepage,” said Barker. “Just go down to the s’s and there you have school threat tips, Wilson County Sheriff’s Office.”

But this coming year, the district will have a new tool at its fingertips – a new app called SafeTN to report threats. It is a free app for all schools in the state.

The way it works is you submit a tip anonymously. The tip then goes to the Department of Safety and Homeland Security and the department determines if there is a safety concern for a district.

“If we receive one tip that stops one bad thing from happening, then it was worth our time and our investment,” said Brice Allen, Supervisory Agent for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Allen explained the next steps.

“Depending on the nature of what the information is, we will contact the agency or organization best equipped to deal with whatever the incident is that’s being reported,” said Allen.

What follows would be similar to the coordination already in place between Wilson County Schools and the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office.

“If we have enough information to identify who the suspect is or the person who made the threat, then we will immediately go out to the home,” said Lt. Scott Moore, spokesperson for the Wilson County Sheriff’s office.

Lt. Moore said the app could become a crucial channel of communication for some districts.

“For rural counties out there that don’t have the money, they don’t have the size and they struggle for resources, this app is going to be tremendous for them because it’s just a resource that they can use and for parents to use students,” said Lt. Moore.

Lt. Moore said the proof is in the numbers. 

After Wilson County implemented its own reporting technology following the 2018 Parkland High School shooting, the number of reported threats dropped from 29 to 15.

Allen said since the SafeTN app rolled out two months ago, there have been 17 reports.

“I would suspect when the school year starts, we’ll probably see an increase in reporting,” said Allen.

Not required, Brice said ultimately it’s up to districts to adopt the app.

“We’d hope that all districts get on board with this for sure because it is that added tool that can add that extra security blanket for our schools,” said Barker.

The Department of Safety and Homeland Security is working with the Department of Education and the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents to promote the app.

The technology is funded by the $30 million former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam allotted for school safety.

It can also address bullying and other forms of criminal activity as part of the “See Something, Say Something” campaign.

For more information on the SafeTN App, click here.

News 2 is digging deeper into evolving safety plans in school districts across Middle Tennessee. 

We have special reports all day Thursday in every newscast that focus on classroom safety, keeping buses and school zones safer, and new initiatives to crack down on inappropriate relationships between students and teachers.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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