Tennessee School System Cuts Down on Illegal Activity with Texting Program: Blount County School District Uses TipSoft for Education to Collect Incident Reports from Students

Article excerpt

Located on the North Carolina border in eastern Tennessee, the rural Blount County school system has 20,000 students and four major high schools. The district is very socioeconomically diverse, and includes students living at the poverty level, some from wealthy households and many others in-between. Tensions between these student populations can create a host of serious problems--including bullying, prescription drug abuse, and weapons possession.

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"We were looking for a better way to get information from students about specific safety issues, particularly in the high schools," says Sergeant Jeff Hicks, who oversees safety in Blount. "Students often don't always communicate well verbally."

However, Hicks notes, students are familiar and comfortable with communicating electronically. TipSoft for Education, software from crime reporting, mapping, and analytics company PublicEngines, was the perfect solution.

TipSoft for Education allows students to use text messaging, web forms, or a mobile application called TipSubmit to provide timely information on cyber-bullying, potential violence, known drug transactions and other dangerous situations. Using the software, students can confidentially report tips about such concerns to school administrators.

At Blount, Hicks and several administrators receive text alerts on their personal cell phones as soon as a TipSoft message comes in, allowing them to take action before a dangerous event occurs.

To help implement the program, PublicEngines provided webinar training and Q&A sessions with district administrators. Once the staff felt comfortable with the product, the district launched a full-scale marketing campaign to get the word out to students and parents.

"We held a press conference to spread information about the new program" says Hicks. "We began receiving tip alerts before the press conference was over. …