The Saratoga Sun -

Threat reported, investigated

HEM hears of possible danger, law enforcement investigates


March 28, 2018

Mike Armstrong

Hanna, Elk Mountain, Medicine Bow Jr./Sr. High School.

By Mike Armstrong

On March 21, if a person went on the Hanna, Elk Mountain, Medicine (HEM) Bow High School website, there were words that made people aware the administration was taking seriously any possible danger to it's students, no matter how remote, the circumstances: "Over the weekend, it was reported to school personnel that a student mentioned to another student that they might bring a weapon to school. As soon as this was reported to us, we contacted legal authorities who investigated the situation and have taken appropriate actions. We will have law enforcement personnel on hand at school tomorrow as precaution.

The student will not be allowed to return to school until a formal threat assessment is completed. If allowed to attend school, appropriate searches of the student will be conducted.

This is a prime example of 'if you see (or hear) something, say something.' Please remember you can always utilize the Safe2Tell website, app and phone number to report issues like this."

Authorities are currently investigating the report but Steve Priest, HEM principal, and the school administration were taking no chances and would rather err on the side of caution. They certainly hope it is all a misunderstanding–but with students' well-being at stake, any possibility of danger is taken seriously.

This is why he said if any student sees or hears something, it should be reported–and Safe2Tell is an excellent and anonymous way to do so.

Safe2Tell Promoted

"Safe2Tell is a great program," Priest said. "They started it two years ago in Wyoming and it is modeled after a program in Colorado and it has resources for students, parents, teachers and it is through the department of Homeland Security."

Priest said Safe2Tell came to HEM last year and did a presentation to students at the school.

Safe2Tell started the initial model in Colorado in 2003. The program went live with the Colorado State Patrol as a main answering point in 2004. In 2007 the first Safe2Tell legislation in Colorado was passed to establish an anonymous reporting statute. It was also the year Safe2Tell introduced web reporting. In 2015, a mobile app was introduced.

Safe2Tell in Wyoming started in 2016.

Priest said Safe2Tell doesn't do the presentations every year because of overkill, but posters are in the school and links to it are on the school's website. All the school's iPads have an app for Safe2Tell.

"When a report goes in, there is a live operator that takes the information, whether it is on the website, app or phone," Priest said. "If it is a serious situation, the operator does take information to verify the facts. Then it goes to the proper authority in the school and the law enforcement's office."

He said if it is something like bullying, it stays on the school level without dispatching to law enforcement. Suicide threats would go to law enforcement, school and social welfare personnel.

Priest said potential suicide candidates are often helped by their friends who call into Safe2Tell to alert people of the possible chance of a suicide.

Many calls come in after school time to Safe2Tell, so this is another positive Priest said.

Students use Safe2Tell Wyoming to report: bullying, stealing, threats, fights, drugs, alcohol, weapons, sexual misconduct, harassment, stalking, dating violence, cutting, suicidal behaviors or any other violent or dangerous situations that threaten their safety or the safety of others. It is for the purpose of prevention and intervention, to help keep students safe.

According to the Safe2Tell website, in order to break the code of silence, the Safe2Tell solution works to improve the culture and climate of schools. A vital component of the prevention model is conducting intentional conversations that empower students to speak up without fear of retaliation, embarrassment or labeling. Safe2Tell Wyoming provides the promise of hope and help.

Anonymous Reporting

The report takers will not ask for any personal identifiable information. An assigned tip number, along with a password, is provided. If more information is needed about the case, Safe2Tell will use the two way dialogue feature using the login id and password assigned. A caller should save the tip number and password. A caller can later log-in and check for messages from Safe2Tell Wyoming.

Student Lounge on the website has information on suicide, bullying, cyberbullying, drug abuse, drinking, cutting, depression, sexting, weapons, internet safety, sexual assault, smoking and huffing.

When a topic of concern is selected, there is information tailored to each subject. If suicide is selected the page gives explanation on why teens might want to commit suicide. It also gives numbers to call and additional resources.

The weapons page tells why a student might bring a weapon to school. It also tells a student to seek safety, write down anything a student remembers while it is fresh and to report the situation to a trusted adult immediately.

Excellent Resource

"I think Safe2Tell has been an excellent source for students to go to who may not have someone to talk to at school or may occur outside of school hours," Darrin Jennings, principal of Saratoga Elementary School, said. "It is a good resource for our students to use to keep the schools safe."

Jennings said he has had exposure to it succeeding when he was working in Carbon County School District No 1.

"If it hadn't been for Safe2Tell, there were some issues I would not have known about, although nothing serious, but it is another avenue to keep our kids safe and happy in school," Jennings said. "It covers everything you can imagine in a school."

Jennings said we live in world where it is important for schools to know each one of its students to keep them happy.

"Safe2Tell is another opportunity for us to make sure we are taking any type of threat seriously," Jennings said.

He said there is a vetting process so Safe2Tell can't be abused.

"Safe2Tell starts the investigation process," Jennings said. "But is not the sentence, so we make sure we cover all our bases."

Priest reinforces Jennings words about possible system abuse.

"If it is found out that it is a clear misuse of the system, the authorities make it clear this is a serious offense with fines," Priest said.

He said a report from Safe2Tell comes from the state every month to tell what is going on in school districts to give an idea of what might be trending. Priest said he feels that Safe2Tell gets rid of the culture of a student feeling like they are squealing on another student.

"It gets rid of that culture of ratting on someone, when all they are trying to do is help someone," Priest said."I think it is a great system."

Safe2Tell Wyoming is available to all Wyoming schools, students, teachers, and parents. State law guarantees the confidentiality of every caller. Reports can be made to Safe2Tell Wyoming by calling 1-844-WYO-SAFE (996-7233). Reports can also be submitted through Safe2Tell Wyoming's website.

Tips may be submitted using a smartphone through the Safe2Tell Wyoming mobile app. Every tip submitted to Safe2Tell is thoroughly investigated once given to the appropriate school and/or law enforcement agency.


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