- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 3, 2018

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland has a new tip line and mobile app to make it easier to report potential threats at schools.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced the new Safe Schools Maryland initiative Wednesday at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, where the new tip line will be operated around the clock. Acts of violence in schools often are not impulsive acts, the governor said, and students need to be empowered to speak out about potential safety threats they observe among their peers.

“If they see unsafe situations or behavior, including threats made in person or on social media, bullying, or a friend who expresses the desire to hurt themselves or others, we need our young Marylanders to say something and to do something without fear of retribution for coming forward,” Hogan said.

Reports can be made anonymously on the app that is available through Apple App Store or Google Play. Reports also can be made online at www.SafeSchoolsMD.org or by calling 1-833-MD-B-SAFE. Tip line staff will share incoming information with appropriate school system officials and staff, as well as law enforcement personnel, emergency and medical staff.

School safety has become a heightened priority around the country after the February assault at a Parkland, Florida, high school that killed 17 people. The following month, Maryland experienced a school shooting at Great Mills High School in southern Maryland, where Jaelynn Willey was fatally shot by a classmate before the 17-year-old shooter shot and killed himself.

Donovan Weekley, a junior at Great Mills, cited the popularity of smart phones and social media among high school students and described the new tip line as “the very thing that could save lives.”

“The accessibility of this hotline could very well be the difference between a student taking the situation upon himself or herself and alerting the necessary authorities,” Weekley said at a news conference with the governor.

Jake Heibel, the principal at Great Mills, said the statewide tip line will help educators “stay ahead of issues before they become major problems.”

“The Maryland Safe Schools tip line will be a valuable tool to use in our efforts to keep kids as safe as possible during their time in school,” Heibel said. “It will also assist schools in preserving the essence of a building as a safe place for learning, development and growth experiences.”

Hogan also announced $3.6 million in federal school safety grants. He says the money will supplement more than $40 million in state funding for school safety in this year’s budget.

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