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Anonymous school safety tip line created in North Dakota

MINOT, N.D. — Kids and parents are urged to report drug use, bullying, threats of violence or other suspicious activity using a new statewide anonymous texting program called Project Stand Up for School Safety and Project Stand Up to Drug Crime.

The new platform became activated in every North Dakota city and county at noon Friday, Aug. 17. People can report potential problems in every school such as suicide risk, threats of violence, bullying, vandalism or cheating by texting SAFE to 82257. The information will be instantly relayed to the superintendent of the school district as well as to the law enforcement agency within that area. People in the community can also report suspected drug activity by texting DRUGS to 82257. Those tips will be instantly directed to the sheriff's department covering the area where the call originated.

The North Dakota Sheriff's Association started the new programs in the state and it has been endorsed by state agencies and different officials, including the North Dakota Police Chiefs Association, the governor, the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, and the North Dakota School Board Association.

North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler said kids at a camp where she spoke earlier this summer were enthusiastic about the tip line.

"It was unanimous," she said during a news conference on Friday at the Sleep Inn in Minot. "They said if it is provided to them, they will use it."

Baesler also said it is important to the students to know that their voices have been heard. They would like to know whether tips they provided have led to an arrest.

School superintendents in each district in the state will receive the tips and can also decide whether to include other school administrators and other parties in the message. Those who text an anonymous tip cannot be identified.

Anonymous tips cannot be used to obtain a search warrant but they can be valuable pieces of the puzzle for those launching an investigation. Agencies in different areas of the state might also be able to coordinate their investigations if tips come in about the same individual in different jurisdictions.

School safety is on the minds of parents and teachers as the school year is set to begin and Baesler said this tip line is a good way to help enhance school safety and root out potential threats.

Project Stand Up was launched in South Dakota in May 2017 and, since that time, more than 600 investigations were launched from anonymous tips about drugs, said founder David Bean at the press conference. The program Project Stand Up For School Safety was launched after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., earlier this year. North Dakota is now the eighth state to use Stand Up For School Safety Program, according to a press release.

No taxpayer money was used for the program; it is managed by a non-profit corporation. Sanford Health is a major corporate sponsor. Other sponsors will be recruited within North Dakota.