School security is under the microscope due to recent events. Educators and experts say communication is key for maintaining a safe learning environment.
Some New York State schools, including at least six in Onondaga County, have implemented an online and digital app called "Tip411" as a proactive approach to protecting the physical and mental health of students.
West Genesee High School is one of many schools across New York State that now use Tip411, an anonymous communication tool that lets schools and law enforcement know about a variety of things happening on campus.
“We have a mix of different types of tips. Some are things about the parking lot and someone driving erratically that they want us to look into,” said West Genesee High School Principal Tracy Klefbeck.
Schools also get reports of bullying, harassment, vaping, drugs and alcohol, as well as threats of violence on the tip program.
“And this has been really wonderful for us in that we have the ability to reach back out to the tipster ask follow-up questions, encourage them, depending on the tip to come meet with administration or a counselor,” said Klefbeck.
Joseph Coolican, first chief assistant district attorney for Onondaga County, says they have used Tip411 across the county and in schools for six years.
“In today's society, there's a tremendous reluctance to be linked to reporting crimes to law enforcement,” said Coolican.
Coolican says over six years, more than 11,000 Tip411’s have come into the sheriff's department, and guaranteed anonymity is the key to getting them.
“Your identity will never be revealed in police paperwork, in court, or anywhere else. But it does give the police a lead to start tracking down and doing their job and investigating things before they go very badly. And it's a two-way street. We absolutely depend on citizens reaching out and notifying law enforcement," he said.
Officials in school say if there is a dire or immediate issue, calling 911 is the best tool to use.
“If this was an emergency situation because [TIP411] is through an email notification, your best bet is to call 911. If it was an emergency, that type of an emergency or call, one of the offices and have someone be able to address it directly and immediately,” Klefbeck specified.
Experts suggest inquiring about and requesting Tip411 in your area schools if it's not being offered.
The Onondaga County District Attorney and many local law enforcement agencies have Tip411 on their website for the community at large to communicate anonymously through, as well.