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(January 10, 2020)

No community is immune from the threat of school violence.  In 2011, a Millard South student shot and killed a school administrator and himself and injured the school principal.

“We live in a new world, which requires new actions,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “The safety of our students, teachers, staff, and everyone  who uses our schools and school campuses is critically important to all of us. The best strategies to enhance school safety are communication and prevention.”

Following a practice becoming common around the country, Omaha Police took the lead to form the threat advisory team, a partnership between law enforcement agencies, seven metro school districts, Lutheran Family Services, and Regional 6 Behavioral Health Care.

The team coordinates crisis response, performs school safety assessments, and provides threat assessment training.

It also developed the anonymous reporting system, Safe2HelpNE, which is now live and operated by the Boys Town National Hotline.  In the first week, dozens of reports have been received.

“School safety is a priority for all of us,” said Omaha Deputy Police Chief Greg Gonzalez. “Our number one goal is get students the help and resources they need to enhance school safety.” 

There are three ways to make an anonymous report:

By phone: 531-299-SAFE (7233)

By website: www.Safe2helpNE.org

By mobile app

“This tip line will be unique to this region and most of the country because the people answering the phones are experts at Boys Town’s certified crisis center, they are trained to respond to bullying, suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety and other mental health crises,” said Gonzalez

If an urgent threat is reported to the hotline, law enforcement and school administrators are immediately notified.

“An anonymous reporting system is imperative to the next level of safety in our schools” said Millard Public Schools Superintendent Dr.James Sutfin.  “When you call, you get help.”

In the three weeks following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018, Omaha police investigated 71 school threats.

“While 71 may sound very high for a three-week time-frame, the concern is with the number of threats that were unknown,” said Mayor Stothert. “The threat assessment team will help identify those unknowns by recognizing persons who may be at risk of hurting themselves or others. They could be students, teachers, staff, parents or anyone with access to our schools.

Data from other states that use this type of anonymous reporting shows about 80% of the reports are mental health issues according to Boys Town Hotline staff.

“This service will ensure the safety of young people and they will get the help they need,” said Boys Town National Hotline Director Ginny Gohr. “What a powerful message to young people that their community cares.”

OPD stresses the tip line does not replace 911, always call 911 in an emergency.