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The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Anonymous Tips Now Accepted by Bibb County School District

A screenshot from Bibb County School District’s new anonymous web portal for tips regarding student safety.

The Bibb County School District now has a way to receive anonymous tips regarding threats to student safety.

The web-based app, called Safe4Bibb, is an online portal superintendent Dan Sims recently launched to help inform the district about student issues or threats to safety and security it might not otherwise know about.

Tipsters can submit text, video, audio and document files through the online portal, which is protected with the same identity-hiding, multi-layer encryption technology used by Macon Regional Crimestoppers.

The district will maintain its current online portal, “Let’s Talk,” which allows tips and complaints to be submitted to the district with an email address and phone number.

The district notified parents about the new anonymous tip portal last week. By Wednesday, the district received about a dozen tips, safety and security manager Matthew Giegler said.

“The categories of things you can report are very extensive from bullying – which will probably be a big one – vaping and smoking, abuse, self harm suicidal thoughts, I mean, really the whole gambit of any kind of emergency or threat situation that a student could face or have information about,” Giegler said.

The first tip the district received was more of a complaint and regarded insufficient funding for a school’s wrestling team. Another tip related to a lax parking situation at one school. Two related to reports of bullying, but principals at those schools were already aware of those cases and working to address them, Giegler said.

“We’re anticipating at some point, we will receive some type of anonymous information that’s going to test our capabilities to respond,” Giegler said.

When or if that happens, the district’s 50-person behavioral threat assessment team will respond. The team was trained this past summer and will be tasked with handling serious tips such as those regarding self harm, suicidal thoughts, an active shooter situation or bomb threat, Giegler said.

Tips submitted online are sent immediately to Giegler and three other district-level administrators who determine how to handle each case. Some reports may require involving campus police, alerting a principal or social worker or reporting to the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services while others may be addressed administratively.

“The only identifying feature for the person making the tip is the four digit pin count PIN code that they themselves create at the beginning of the process,” Giegler said. “That’s how they access the tip information going forward, because there’s a chat feature, and they can follow up on what’s been done.”

Outcomes of tips are tracked with case management software.

Anonymous reporting systems have existed for decades, but the number of schools using them increased dramatically after the 2018 massacre at Parkland High School in Florida during which 17 staff and students were killed by a lone gunman, according to a 2021 study funded by a U.S. Department of Justice grant.

Researchers from the National Center for School Safety of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention concluded the reporting systems improved cognitive and behavioral outcomes among sixth grade students and reduced overall school violence compared to schools that had not implemented them.

Other studies say more research is needed to establish best practices and determine their effectiveness.

“The stuff going on in our schools and communities around the country is pretty sad,” Giegler said. “All studies afterwards have shown that kids knew things and wanted to share what they knew, they just didn’t feel safe, or didn’t feel like it would truly be anonymous to do so.”

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-301-5777 or email [email protected].

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