Statewide tip line sees spike in calls over school safety concerns

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COLUMBUS - There’s a phone number every parent needs to know when it comes to calling in something – or someone - suspicious at their child’s school: 844-SAFER-OH.

“We rolled it out in July 2014, and since then, about 2400 schools are partnered in the tip line,” says Jason Bowman, an infrastructure protection manager at Ohio Homeland Security.

The Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Public Safety launched the SaferOH tip line that will accept both calls and texts 24 hours a day for schools that register for the service. Columbus City Schools signed on earlier this year and started spreading awareness as students started their first day of class this week.

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Bowman says calls can range from anything from threats to bullying.

“We’ve seen a mixed bag,” he says. “We’ve been very successful at preventing suicides, we’ve been able to dispel rumors of active aggressors, and investigate cases where action is needed to be taken.”

Thirty-five tips came into the hotline during its first year in 2014. It has steadily increased over the years to 146 tips during the 2017-2018 school year, with most of the calls coming after the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Bowman says the big spike post-Parkland was most likely due to public awareness about individuals of concern and how the tip line is an anonymous resource to help school districts prevent any potential threat.

Click here to read more about Safer Schools Ohio and the Center for P-20 Safety and Security.