Kalispell Public Schools will soon adopt a new mobile app allowing students to anonymously report tips about threats to a school, bullying and mental health issues to administrators and law enforcement.
Dennis Bane is a school resource officer at Flathead High School and with some help from students, he began testing incident reporting apps for the school district last year.
"And the one that we chose is from a company called Safe Schools. It was far and away the most user-friendly one that we used … It’s fast enough they can send a tip through the app while they’re walking through the halls and nobody is going to know."
Safe Schools’ reporting app allows students to report a tip, anonymously if they wish, about bullying, physical threats, weapons at school and even report another student expressing suicidal tendencies.
Those reports are sent to school administrators and law enforcement. Those officials can directly message with that student, even share photos and screenshots related to an incident.
Superintendent Mark Flatau thinks of this as just another tool for the district to receive reports on safety related incidents, even if they’re false alarms like recent events in Helena or in Billings.
Earlier this month a bomb was reported by law enforcement at a Helena school, although that report turned out to a false alarm.
And this week Billings police responded to a report of a possible gun threat at a school, but that also turned out to be a false alarm.
Flatau says there is potential for intentionally false reports.
"And you don’t know until you try it. If we find ourselves chasing false reports 95 percent of the time, we may rethink the use of that."
Bane says other Montana school districts are using these apps and says they haven’t had that problem.
"I’m sure that there might be a couple of those, but we can investigate those, take them seriously like we always would. I’m hoping that the kids will take it seriously enough to use it for what it’s intended for."
The app comes with an annual cost of about $2,500 and its implementation was made possible in part by a grant from Flathead Electric Co-op. It will be used district-wide and is expected to be in use by the end of the school year