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Oklahoma Deploys New Statewide Anonymous Tip Line for K-12

The state is partnering with Rave Mobile Safety to customize an anonymous tip app for students, staff and parents to report safety concerns, replacing an old tip line that wasn’t being used.

Smartphone receiving a call from an unknown number.
Shutterstock/Tero Vesalainen
Student safety being their top priority, school districts are increasingly seeking new technological advances to protect kids. Some have launched pilot programs driven by data while others are using physical systems like badges and panic buttons, and security companies are stressing the need for more safety monitoring or updating standards. Following in the footsteps of Florida and Hawaii, the state of Oklahoma has now contracted Rave Mobile Safety, which makes apps to help secure campuses through tip lines and emergency notifications, to run its anonymous tip program at K-12 schools statewide.

According to a news release from the company, Rave Mobile Safety’s AppArmor tool will give students, staff and parents a mobile app through which they can anonymously share concerns about safety threats. The news release also said schools had not been using Oklahoma’s existing tip line, which was underwritten by a three-year Homeland Security grant, and it cited a University of Michigan study which found anonymous reporting can reduce violence in schools and increase student connectedness.

The new contract builds on Oklahoma’s statewide deployment of the Rave Panic Button, which started at most of the state’s public and charter schools in 2019. The news release said 92.4 percent of schools have opted to use the Panic Button app, and about 88 percent of personnel at those schools have set up campus guidelines and settings in the system.

Todd Miller, senior vice president of strategic programs at Rave Mobile Safety, told Government Technology that after emergency events, it’s common for people to come forward and say they knew something, and the confidential approach to reporting tips makes students feel safer.

“There is a universal recognition that there’s a real need to surface this type of anonymous or confidential information, so that whether it’s students or parents or members of the community, they feel very comfortable reporting something when that’s not quite right,” Miller said. “Because the reality is we’ve got techniques and ways to help individuals, but we just need to know about [the problem].”

Rave Mobile Safety works with the state to customize the app as desired — this takes a couple weeks, Miller said — giving the state control over the app and the ability to make their own changes with their own IT team. This arrangement allows the app to be branded by the state, as an offering from Oklahoma rather than Rave.

“From a technology standpoint, we support that end-to-end so that it can really be branded by the communities that are promoting it to their residents,” Miller said.

Users decide where the tips are directed, whether it be to local authorities or a central repository, Miller said. In Oklahoma’s case, all the tips will roll up to the state’s fusion center where they will be evaluated on a 24/7 basis and responded to in real time. The app has an annual fee for the state, but public and charter schools can adopt it at no cost, Miller said.

“AppArmor has been successfully deployed in school districts across the country and nearly all the schools in Oklahoma have already embraced Rave Panic Button, so we are confident that AppArmor’s anonymous tipping capabilities will be utilized and that school safety efforts across the state will be strengthened,” Oklahoma School Safety Institute Program Manager Gary Shelton said in a public statement.

According to company statistics provided to Government Technology, AppArmor recorded over 500,000 downloads across the roughly 7,000 schools throughout Florida, where it has also been deployed statewide, with more than 20,000 tips reported. Statistics from Hawaii were not immediately available.
Giovanni Albanese Jr. is a staff writer for the Center for Digital Education. He has covered business, politics, breaking news and professional soccer over his more than 15-year reporting career. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Salem State University in Massachusetts.