Idaho lands grant to create school safety tip line

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The Idaho Office of School Safety and Security has received $540,000 in federal grants to launch a statewide school safety tip line and other tools.

The U.S. Department of Justice grants resulted from the federal STOP School Violence Act, program manager Brian Armes said.

The Office of School Safety and Security plans to use the grants to launch a confidential, statewide tip line featuring downloadable apps and a web portal.

“The grants were written for the purpose of putting in a statewide tip line that will be based on phone apps and a web portal for students to report behavior of concern or suspicious activity,” Armes said. “The companion piece, the other grant, will allow us to develop and offer training on a statewide behavioral threat assessment and management protocol.”

The Legislature and Gov. Butch Otter created the Office of School Safety and Security in 2016. Since its inception, the office’s security consultants have visited about two thirds of Idaho’s schools, developing individualized safety and threat assessments for these buildings.

The grants and tip line will allow the office to expand on its services, addressing critical gaps identified in school safety assessments and offering students an easy reporting mechanism.

A timeline of the tip line rollout will be announced in the coming weeks. Armes pledged to work closely with the state’s existing suicide hotline to ensure compatibility and avoid duplication.

He also said he was pleased that Idaho was awarded the grants through the competitive process.

“It’s nice to know Idaho is in the running,” Armes said. “One thing our agency is trying hard to do in these competitive grant situations is go after money that is set aside specifically for schools safety.”

In a budget request released in September, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra indicated she would seek $200,000 for 2018-19, to establish a school safety tip line. Now that the school safety office has received the grant, Ybarra said she would delete that particular funding request from her budget.

“I’m delighted that the OSSS received its hoped-for federal grant to fund a school safety tip line, which will be an integral part of the state’s efforts to improve safety for students and schools,” Ybarra said in a written statement.

“The tip line was added to our Keep Idaho Students Safe budget proposal as a safety net in case the Department of Justice funding did not come through. We will wholeheartedly support the OSSS-run tip line.”

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