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Seguin Gazette: Tipster app rolling out at Seguin ISD

Felicia Frazar The Seguin Gazette
 
Seguin ISD students have a new way to report anything that is a cause for concern and potentially earn a financial reward for it.
 
Whether it be criminal, truancy or mental health issues, students have the ability to use the P3 Campus app sponsored by Guadalupe County Crime Stoppers to leave anonymous tips about what is happening on and off their campus involving their peers.
 
The tips could lead to potential rewards, similar to the P3 tipster app that Guadalupe County Crime Stoppers currently uses to solicit information from the community anonymously.
 
Seguin ISD executive director of student services Kirsten Legore and Guadalupe County Crime Stoppers president Ken Kiel presented information to the board about the new program that was rolling out into the district.
 
“We really appreciate Guadalupe County Crime Stoppers who are funding this and providing a way for Seguin ISD to have the technological advancement of this reporting system, which I know is going to benefit students, it already has benefited students,” Legore said.
 
Kiel said he was approached by the Texas Crime Stoppers about implementing the program in Guadalupe county schools.
 
“With the school shootings and the violence and David’s law, the governor said we want the Crime Stoppers organizations in schools, so hence the beginning of the conversation,” Kiel said.
 
When the conversation spread to the area school districts Seguin ISD jumped on board.
 
While the adult version of the app focuses on crime, the campus version allows students, faculty and eventually the community the ability to report on a broader range of subjects, most importantly, mental health, Legore said.
 
“Everybody thinks of Crime Stoppers as the entity that pays people if they report crime and really for the schools they focus more on the mental health component,” she said. “This is about getting students to pay attention to each other, not so much on themselves, and to report anything that they think is peculiar — kids that might need help and those things that might have nothing to do with a crime but are indicators of just somebody who needs some attention.”
 
The app allows students to use different mediums to make their anonymous reports including photos, videos, voice recordings, screenshots, documents and more, Legore said.
 
The topic on which concerned peers can report on include crimes, truancy or bullying, Legore said.
 
“Some of the things that are on this list are, of course, crimes, but then other things aren’t necessarily anything that would result in an arrest,” she said. “Those things include anything related to suicide, planned school attack, ... something that you’re concerned about, some red flags. Also, things related to depression and mental health issues. We focused on some of the things that are unique to a school and being able to reward people for reporting that.”
 
In the district’s soft rollout of the program they’ve received three tips, Legore said.
 
“The reports are read and responded to 24/7 from the entity that is always receiving these tips,” Legore said. “If it’s a life-threatening kind of situation, certain people designated within the district will get that, even if it is 2 in the morning. And it’s not just Seguin ISD administrators who get this information. It is a cooperative effort with law enforcement and schools and mental health professionals.”
 
The biggest thing Kiel and Legore wanted to stress was the anonymity the app provides.
 
“The reason why Crime Stoppers is such a significant organization, not only around the country but around the world is two things — the anonymity of the tipster and the possible cash reward if that tip led to an arrest,” Kiel said. “This is a way to get people to talk. We have never known and we will never know the identity of the tipster that is giving the tip to us. It’s encrypted.”
 
The system involves a third party company taking the tips and relaying the information back to the local organization. The tipster receives a number, and if the information pans out and leads to an arrest or indictment, the person can use that number to get the reward from a number of banks in the county who are listed as partners with the program, Kiel said.
 
Additionally, Guadalupe County Crime Stoppers is offering to the service to the district at no cost, Kiel said.
 
“When I came in and met with Kirsten and Superintendent (Matthew Gutierrez) and Bill (Lewis, associate superintendent of technology), I said this is going to sound strange but I’m not coming to sell you anything because we’re going to pay for it, the school district is not gonna have to pay for anything,” Kiel said. “We’re sponsoring this P3 program.”
 
The biggest incentive for students is the potential reward they receive if their information leads officials in the right direction.
 
“If the report does lead to an arrest, detention or even just a school consequences — things like truancy, bullying, thing that might not be a crime — the reporter will get money,” Legore said.
 
The reward ranges and is dependent upon the severity of the incident, Legore said.
 
“There is that incentive as well, although that’s not the main purpose,” she said. “The real goal of this program is that students do exactly this — speak up, see something, say something.”
 
However, authorities are aware that false reporting could happen, and there is a system in place if that were to take place, Legore said.
 
“When that happens, you can actually go through a coding system to say it is a false report,” she said. “And because that is actually breaking the rules, those become potentially something that can be investigated by law enforcement. So normally it is 100 percent anonymous, but if somebody goes into the system and is not abiding by the rules, which include recording information that is to the best of your knowledge is true, then there could actually be consequences for that.”
 
Legore said Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD is also rolling out the program about the same time Seguin is. Additionally, Guadalupe County Crime Stoppers with the help from Seguin ISD will assist Navarro and Marion ISDs in implementing the program into their campuses, Legore said.
 
“Once we work out all the kinks that are going to come as part of rolling this out and we get really good at it, then we’re working with those two districts as well, so we’ll have all of Guadalupe County on board with this reporting system,” she said.

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