In the wake of the Florida shooting, schools using apps to prevent gun violence

Sheryl Acquarola_628735

Sheryl Acquarola, a 16 year-old junior from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is overcome with emotion in the east gallery of the House of Representatives after the representatives voted not to hear the bill banning assault rifles and large capacity magazines at the Florida Capital in Tallahassee, Fla., Feb 20, 2018. Acquarola was one of […]

(ABC)– In the wake of the deadly shooting rampage at a South Florida high school last week, some campuses are now turning to anonymous tip apps as a way of preventing school shootings, urging students to speak up before a tragedy occurs.

“I absolutely know that this app can save lives,” Nicole Hockley, whose son, Dylan, was murdered in his classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School five years ago, said of the “Say Something” reporting app.

Hockley, who co-founded the Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization that uses educational programs to help prevent gun violence, told ABC News that the group’s “Say Something” reporting system is “a 24/7 app, website and telephone line that enables any student, or teacher, or parent to submit any tip or threat that they have heard.”

The “Say Something” program also teaches students and educators how to look for warning signs, especially on social media, of what may indicate someone could potentially be a threat to themselves or others.

Before Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old accused of killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week, opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle at his alma mater, the teen purportedly said in a comment on a YouTube video that he wanted to “be a professional school shooter.”

“Say Something” is currently being used in seven school districts across the country and is in the process of on-boarding at another 23 cities and districts, according to Sandy Hook Promise.

Hockley emphasized that the anonymity aspect of the app is especially crucial because it allows students to report tips without “fear.”

The original campaign urged students to tell a trusted adult if they had concerns, according to Hockley.

“But we know that in some communities telling an adult is not a solution,” Hockley said. “And people feel in danger, or they feel that they’re going to get their friend in trouble or that they’re a snitch.”

“This is about getting people help, so that anonymous gateway — keeping these tips absolutely anonymous — means that someone can get that information out there without fear of any form of retribution,” she added.

As the app and campaign launches at more school districts across the country, Hockley said she knows the tips are going to start rolling in “for school violence and threats of shooting,” but added that “we know that we’re going to be able to prevent them.”

“You won’t necessarily hear the numbers of what we’ve been able to stop,” she added. “But we absolutely know that we’re going to be saving lives.”

Another anonymous reporting app, “Safe 2 Tell,” which is currently used in Colorado schools, said it received 154 tips of planned school attacks since the school shooting last week in Parkland, Florida. It is not clear how many of the tips reported via the app were confirmed by authorities.

“The security protocols we have in place have caught a lot of threats since the Florida incident,” Diana Wilson, the chief communications officer of Colorado’s Jefferson County Public Schools, told ABC Denver affiliate KMGH.

More than sixty students used the “Safe 2 Tell” app to report a single social media post that appeared to threaten violence, according to KMGH. While the threat ended up being a prank, school officials say that this might not always be the case.

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