JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Hundreds of Missouri schools have signed up for a new tool they hope will increase campus safety -- an app meant to improve the response to school safety threats.
In 2022, there were 51 school shootings across the country and 140 people killed or injured in a school shooting, according to Education Week. However, Jefferson City Police remind people that most safety concerns at schools are not as severe as a school shooting or school shooting threat.
“There are calls that don't rise to the level of an active threat to our on the large scale people think active shooter, but we really need to talk about the fact that it's not always a firearm,” said Lt. David Williams.
Jefferson City Police work with the local schools, including the Jefferson City School District, and have officers assigned to monitor each school. Williams said this technique allows police to quickly asses and respond to any emergency.
“Last year we had a situation working with the school, someone talked about a bomb threat that was going to occur on our schools," Williams said. "Because we have people in place and a good working relationship with the school. We knew about it before it happened. We were able to investigate it before school even started the following day.”
The Jefferson City School District is using a new state program this year to increase school safety. The program is a state-funded app through Raptor Technologies that allows school employees to quickly and easily alert everyone in the case of an emergency.
“It will enable an efficiency within the school building where if there is an emergency, where it needs a response that will allow staff to communicate quickly with authority figures that can respond appropriately," Superintendent Bryan McGraw said last week.
How Raptor Technologies' school safety app works
Raptor Technologies' app is used in 48 states. In Missouri, the app is state-funded. Missouri is spending $3 million in general revenue over three years to make this program free to any Missouri public school.
“Missouri and the governor and the legislature approving the funding for having a statewide panic alert, put you way ahead of the game. A lot of states, while they're starting to do that, have not gone to that level in terms of overall school safety," said David Rogers with Raptor Technologies.
Across the state, 143 school districts and charters representing 830 schools are signed up to use the app, constituting about 37% of Missouri schools. Schools that met the June 30 deadline to enroll are already up and running, and others can still sign up until Sept. 1 to get started on the app by November.
“The state is picking up the bill for this because it's an important issue. And then because the state is doing it, there are some economies of scale, some savings, because we're doing it for so many different school districts," said Mike O'Connell with the Missouri Department of Public Safety.
Safety threats to Missouri schools
To gain an understanding of the types of threats Missouri schools face, ABC 17 News requested information from the state. The Missouri State Highway Patrol runs the state's Courage2Report hotlines, formally called the school violence hotline.
Courage2Report is staffed around the clock so anyone can report a concern through the mobile app, an online form, text or phone call.
"The analyst will create a report and forward the information immediately," O'Connell said. "A copy of the report is e-mailed to law enforcement and the school district official. Local law enforcement and the school district officials will determine how to most appropriately handle the situation."
Last school year, from August 2022 to July of this year, the top five types of tips made were bullying and repeated harassment, "handle with care" (which is when a student may be experiencing something traumatic at home and need extra attention), physical assault, threats to kill and school shooting threats.
|Threat||Number of tips|
|Handle with care||154|
|Threat to kill||131|
|School shooting threat||123|
Another way the Highway Patrol helps with school safety is through a program called School Walk Throughs. Schools can request that a trooper walks through the building while class is in session, meet with students and staff and familiarize themselves with the safety of the school.
From August 2022 through the end of May this year, the Highway Patrol conducted 1,599 walk-throughs.