New Illinois School Safety Helpline, Created By State Police, Launches
Three years ago, there was a school shooting at Dixon High School. It ended before any students could be hurt. Because of that incident, Dixon was asked to help pilot Safe2Help. It’s a new hotline that allows students to raise flags about themselves or friends they’re worried about to help prevent suicide, bullying or school violence.
Jared Shaner is the assistant principal at Dixon High School. He said they’ve already had a handful of high school students use the alert. Students across the country have reported increased symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially as a result of COVID-19.
“In the couple of them that we've had, it's ‘I'm worried about a friend or another student at the high school, because I heard them say this, or I saw them do this,’” he said.
When students submit information, it’s vetted by the Illinois State Police, who also created Safe2Help.
“The people at ISP who are running it behind the scenes, they evaluate whether they think it's a low threat level, a moderate threat level or a high threat level,” said Shaner. “And then the higher the threat level, different people are involved. And it may be an immediate call to the local police department. It could be myself and some other administrators.”
That comes before it’s sent to school staff like social workers who are part of a Safe2Help team.
Shaner doesn’t think police involvement will make students uncomfortable using the service. He says student tips won’t lead to arrests or school discipline, and Safe2Help keeps them anonymous unless it’s a self-harm situation.
Shaner says Dixon teachers encouraged students to download the app on their phone as part of an awareness campaign. He says they’ve also urged students to check out resources and videos on Safe2Help’s website. The site doesn’t mention the program’s affiliation with state police.
The $1 million program is expected to launch at schools throughout Illinois this fall.
Safe2Help isn’t the only technology Illinois districts utilize for school safety. Many districts, including Dixon, who are 1-1 and provide students Chromebooks use programs like “Gaggle.” The software monitors student Google searches, documents and emails and triggers alerts if they use flagged keywords or phrases.