Text-A-Tip helps thwart high school dangers

As you’re making sure your teen child has all of the right supplies, clothing and study habits to get them back in the groove of a new school year - think about making sure he or she is equipped with ways of dealing with any potential dangers while away from your care.

Text-A-Tip is a good tool to equip your teen child with so that they can anonymously alert adults and authorities in the case of any potential dangers or concerns that they may encounter throughout the day. The first of its kind in this area, the program is a collaborated effort between the Blount County Emergency Communications Center; local law enforcement and high schools in Blount County, Alcoa and Maryville; and the Blount County Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team. The program kicked off on Feb. 1, 2010, and authorities began receiving their first tips during the Text-A-Tip press conference.

Text-A-Tip is the easiest way for local high school students to report a crime or concern, even when school isn’t in session. The anonymous tips are processed through a secure server and are sent back to the Blount County Emergency Communications Center (911). That information then is sent to the appropriate school resource officer (SRO) or law enforcement officer and principal. The tipster gets a reply message with a confidential code number. The code can be used to add information to the original tip. High school students can text their anonymous tips to local law enforcement officials at 274637. Each Text-A-Tip message starts with the student’s school keyword:

Alcoa High School: AHSTIP

Everett Learning Opportunity Center: ELOCTIP

Heritage High School: HHSTIP

Maryville High School: REBELS

William Blount High School: WBHS

Blount County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jeff Hicks, who oversees SRO division for the sheriff’s office, began the implementation of the Text-A-Tip program after hearing about the useful tool through a friend and fellow SRO in Colorado. The system is designed so that no one will ever know where the text came from. Each tip is filtered through a secure server in Canada, and then back to the Blount County Emergency Communications (911) Center, so that it cannot be tracked. Because of the anonymity, Text-A-Tip provides a safe way of sharing information without threat of retaliation - helping teens feel at ease about sharing their concerns.

So far, Text-A-Tip has resulted in the prevention of a suicide attempt, after a friend sent in a tip. It also has led to numerous tips on bullying, child abuse, drug possession and fights. Remind your teen that if they are uncomfortable about a situation they should tell someone. Text-A-Tip provides the opportunity for a student to report concerns and allow law enforcement or school officials to investigate and determine the outcome.

Provide your child with his or her school’s Text-A-Tip keyword this school year. If you have any questions on the Text-A-Tip program, ask your child’s school resource officer or call the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach at 865-977-5727 for more information.

Jessica Stith is the project manager for the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach.

© 2011 blounttoday.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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