School safety tip line expected to go live this spring

January 17, 2019

BOISE — By as early as this spring, schools across Idaho could have access to an electronic confidential tip line, which is intended to help increase safety for students.

The tip line is expected to be a preventive approach to school violence, according to Brian Armes, manager for the Idaho Office of School Safety and Security.

“When you’re talking about school violence, over 85 percent of the time these are people that are known to us,” Armes said. “Typically, they are telling someone that they are getting to a point where they are going to perpetuate violence.”

In a presentation to the House Education Committee on Tuesday, Armes said the tip line, expected to go live March 1, will be funded by a nearly $200,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant.

Armes briefed the committee on some of the work the office has done for schools across Idaho.

Between 2016 and 2018, the office’s security consultants have completed 498 assessments of Idaho’s total 730 schools. In 2017-18, consultants completed almost 1,200 hours of training, compared to just 59.5 hours the year before, according to the office’s data.

These consulting hours include practices and training sessions offered to teachers and administrators statewide, which could be anything from pre-service teacher training to emergency operations planning.

In the last two-and-a-half years, Idaho has added 27 new school sites to the state, most of which were charter schools.

The increase in the number of charter schools, Armes said, has caused some safety concerns due to location and occupancy limits, among other things.

“We are adding school campuses all the time,” Armes said. “One of the things we are seeing is that when charter schools come into play, a lot of the times they do not have that rigorous infrastructure that a regular school district would have.”

There was no mention of state schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s proposed safety initiative — Keep Idaho Students Safe — at Tuesday’s meeting. Gov. Brad Little is not recommending any funding for the proposed $20 million school safety initiative. Instead, he’s opted for what the office is already doing.