Duval County creates safety hotline to report school threats

Hotline, email allow students, parents to anonymously report threats

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Students and parents have a new resource to report threats to a Duval County public school or bus, officials announced Thursday.

The district has created a new hotline -- 904-348-SAFE (7233) -- and email address -- 348SAFE@duvalschools.org -- to report threats.

Reports made to the hotline and email address can remain anonymous.

Duval County School Police will operate and manage the hotline, which offers quick access for reporting and provides law enforcement an early opportunity to investigate current or future threats of violence, firearms, weapons violations or major fights, officials said.

“Creating this hotline is an additional strategy in keeping our schools safe as we are committed to providing secure campus environments conducive to learning,” Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti said. “We will encourage our students, parents, staff, and community to use the 348-SAFE hotline as we know early intervention by local law enforcement and school administration de-escalates threats, reduces disruptions and allows our educators to focus on teaching and learning.”

Other safety measures DCPS is enacting include random searches, a continuation of the Eddy Eagle GunSafe Program for elementary schools, in-school assemblies for secondary schools to discuss consequences of carrying weapons and Parent Academy classes focusing on code of conduct, reducing weapon incidents and responsible social media use. Visit www.duvalschools.org/parentacademy for course info.

As a former school resource officer, News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith is no stranger to the idea of danger hotlines. More than a decade ago, he said the school district ran a campaign called "Be Brave," which urged students to call in any known threats. 

But now, after nearly a dozen guns have been found on school campuses, the district is making another effort for students to report crimes or threats. 

"Students at the school I was at, they felt comfortable talking to administrators about any known problems," Smith said. "But if they don't feel comfortable, then they could use the hotline to call in any known threats of violence to the school."

Trained personnel within the Duval County School Police will monitor the hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, asking for critical information, such as the location, time and individuals involved in the incident.

All tips will be immediately evaluated by supervisors, and depending on the urgency of the call, appropriate law enforcement actions will be initiated by the Duval County School Police, officials said.

The information provided will be confidential to the maximum extent permitted by law, officials said.

Though helpful, Smith said the hotline could run into some issues. 

"The problem with that is that students may use the hotline as a bomb threat hotline. Instead of calling in a bomb threat that though know of, they'll just make something up, and maybe say, 'this person has talked about bringing a bomb to school tomorrow,' when someone really hasn't," he said.  

Smith said he could even see students using the number to dial in about certain issues they're having in the neighborhoods surrounding the schools, which is outside the school board's jurisdiction. That's when the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office would get involved.  

For more information about the safety hotline and tips and resources to maintain safe schools, visit www.duvalschools.org/348safe