COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Missouri State Highway Patrol's anonymous school safety tip hotline received hundreds more reports in 2023 than in 2022.
ABC 17 News submitted a records request and received the number of reports made across the state in 2023.
In 2022, 999 tips were submitted. In 2023, that number jumped to 1,573.
That's up from 594 tips in 2021, 330 in 2020 and 430 in 2019.
The hotline allows students and parents to anonymously report concerns or incidents of assault, bullying, school threats, weapons, drug use, sexual offenses, suicides and other concerns.
MSHP Troop F Sgt. Kyle Green said the increase in reports is likely due to more people being aware of the program.
"It's not necessarily a significant increase in calls because of bad activity, it's just that more people are now aware of the program and are trying to take advantage of it to help out kids in schools and make schools aware of some of the stuff that's going on," Green said.
The leading events reported in 2023 include:
- "Handle with Care" at 290 tips
- Bullying, repeated harassment at 228
- Threat to kill at 160 tips
- Physical assault at 125 tips
- School shooting threats at 78 tips
2023 data shows Handle With Care reports are the most common, at 290 reports throughout the year. Green said the Handle With Care program allows law enforcement or other agencies to notify a school when they encounter a child involved in a traumatic event. Schools will then know the child needs support and can implement trauma-sensitive curricula or provide mental health care.
"Whether it was a bad car crash, whether a parent was arrested, whether there was some form of domestic violence, things like that that kids have a hard time processing," Green said.
In 2022, Handle With Care tips weren't even in the top handful of most reported events at only 49 tips. MSHP reported in November more counties are joining the Handle With Care program.
Boone County Commissioner Janet Thompson said talking about mental health in schools can help normalize the conversation and get children access to treatment, if needed.
"It's a double-edged sword that we're reporting that many, but that we're reporting them means we're connecting them," Thompson said.
Bullying is the second most common report in 2023 at 228 tips throughout the school year. This has increased from 2022 when it was the leading source of tips at 191 reports.
The Council for School Safety Leadership works with the Missouri School Boards' Association and schools across the state to help schools identify and mitigate threats. Chief Operating Officer John McDonald said it's vital people and students report anything they see or hear regarding their safety, and it's then up to the school and law enforcement to act.
He said while not many reports lead to arrests, they do often lead to intervention with a student and a change in behavior.
"Every student wants to feel safe in their school environment," McDonald said. "What Courage2Report does is it provides that opportunity for kids to report and for us to take that seriously and actually do something with it."
To report a concern to Courage 2 Report:
- Call 866-748-7047
- Text 'C2R' to 738477
- Go online to courage2reportmo.com
- Download the Courage2ReportMO mobile app