Over 500 tips of school threats reported through SafeUT app in 2018, officials say

Over 500 tips of school threats reported through SafeUT app in 2018, officials say

(Laura Seitz, KSL, FIle)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — More than 500 potential school threat tips were reported through the SafeUT app in 2018, according to new numbers released by the Utah Office of the Attorney General on Friday.

In all, officials received 534 potential school threat tips, including 218 tips about students with guns and 175 tips about planned school attacks. Sixty-eight of the tips were about “weapons,” 61 were specifically about knives and another dozen were about threats involving explosives.

“With the tips, we knew it would be important. We knew it would save lives and it’s very, very gratifying to have put something like this together,” Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, who sponsored a 2015 bill that created the app, told KSL.com on Friday. He added he didn’t know how many of those turned out to be credible tips, but said about 90 percent of threat tips from the 2017-18 school year were verified by authorities.

That means authorities found that the student had a weapon or a plan for a school attack. It’s something that Thatcher said he believes had been happening for years before the app.

“Now that we have the head’s up and now that we have the way of knowing when these bad things are happening, we’re able not only able to intervene and stop the potential for violence, but as importantly, we’re able to give those kids who are having those thoughts … help,” he said. “We’re able to get them into counseling. We’re getting to the root of what is leading to these thoughts of violence.”

In addition, clinicians responded to more than 1,500 tips of students contemplating suicide from July 2017 through October 2018, Utah Office of the Attorney General officials said. Those can be from students themselves or classmates sending in a tip that a student is having a hard time and someone should help check in on them, Thatcher explained.

He said the number of tips doesn’t even include the hundreds of thousands of messages back and forth from students and SafeUT staff members after a tip is submitted.

“We’ve had more success with texting, having students be able to text and speak with a therapist. For the 2017-2018 school year, there were 298,455 text threads sent through the SafeUT app to the crisis workers,” Thatcher said.

The app officially rolled out in 2016 to make it easier for Utah students to get help if they needed it and to report possible school threats. It’s a statewide service that provides immediate crisis intervention through text and also anonymous tips.

A 24/7 call center also helps students gain access to supportive or crisis counseling, suicide prevention and referral services from licensed clinical staff member through calls, texts and chats in the app.

The 2018 numbers and other numbers from the app indicate it is a success, Thatcher said. He believes not only will SafeUT grow and more students will use it in coming years, but other states will adopt a similar program.

“More and more students are using this app and it’s saving lives every single day,” he said.

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