New school safety app allows students, parents to submit anonymous tips
The St. Johns County School District is already receiving tips on FortifyFL, a new app launched in Florida last month aimed at helping students and parents anonymously report suspicious activity in the state’s schools.
The Florida Legislature set aside $400,000 for the development of the app through the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, legislation put into place after the mass shooting in Parkland where 17 students and faculty were killed on Feb. 14. The Office of Attorney General, Department of Education and Florida Department of Law Enforcement worked together to develop the app.
According to St. Johns County School District spokesperson Christina Langston, the district has received seven anonymous tips since the app launched in mid October, but none of the tips have required the involvement of law enforcement.
“They have been Code of Conduct-related and handled at the school level,” Langston said.
After downloading the app, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play, users can submit a tip either anonymously or by leaving contact information. First, users select the school or county, then they can submit details of the tip including photos and videos.
“Recent and past tragedies remind us of the need for our students and communities to report suspicious activity so we can keep our schools as safe as possible,” the Florida Police Chiefs Association and Florida Sheriff’s Association wrote in a joint statement.
Every tip is sent simultaneously to the principal, assistant principal and dean at the school identified, multiple district staff and local law enforcement via email, text or phone. Law enforcement must acknowledge the tips within 30 minutes or it will continue to receive alerts every 15 minutes. Some tips would go directly to 911, such as if someone saw a student placing a gun in a backpack.
The app is available for more than 6,900 schools across the state.
Like any anonymous reporting system, there is the possibility of misuse. According to media reports, The Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office received a false report of an active shooter being on the Suwannee High School campus on Nov. 8. The sheriff said the tip was received anonymously through the FortifyFL app.
Still, the district believes it can be a powerful tool as schools continue to guard against further tragedy.
“The app ... is critical to ensuring all Florida schools are safe environments where students and educators can experience and share the joy of learning without fear,” Superintendent Tim Forson said in a statement. “I encourage you to become familiar with this tool and learn more about its use and purpose.”
For information or to download the app, go to GetFortifyFL.com.