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State announces texting tip line for school threats

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star

The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) has announced Oklahoma schools will be able to use new technology that allows anyone to report outside threats using text messages.

The new alert system was acquired through a partnership with OSDE and the Oklahoma School Security Institute (OSSI), a division of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (ODEMHS). The system is a significant upgrade for school safety and security to an already existing telephone tip line.

Many superintendents in the area have been made aware of the new system.

According to Bethel Schools Superintendent Tod Harrison, he feels the new technology will be useful and he looks forward to learning more about it.

"I am on board with anything we can do to increase the safety of our students and staff. I am not familiar with this new version yet," Harrison said.

The text system works in conjunction with OSBI's telephone tip line. Before the new addition, threat reports could be called in to (855) 337-8300 or shared through tipline.ok.gov.

With this new technology, suspicious activity can be reported by texting "OKSThreat" to 226787.

According to Dr. April Grace, superintendent of Shawnee Public Schools, SPS will remain on track with protecting students from the coronavirus.

"Right now our focus is continuing to navigate through the ongoing pandemic," Grace said. "We will look into the system and consider its use once we're in a more normal situation."

The texting system will allow for anonymous, two-way communication, images and video to be sent 24 hours a day.

According to Dr. Bob Gragg, superintendent of Seminole Public Schools, he likes the idea of the system but needs to learn more about it.

"I need to research and ponder. It sounds like a really nice feature," Gragg said.

Funding for the text system came from a $250,000 grant awarded to OSDE by the U.S. Department of Justice.