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'It would make a huge difference': Program could help reduce threats, students with guns at schools

Safe2Tell is a tool students can use to report bullying, suicide, or school threats anonymously.

PHOENIX — Its become a common pattern for authorities nationwide to respond to school threats nowadays.

In Arizona, just in the last 30 days, police have responded to 12 schools following reports of shots fired, threatening notes found or a student on campus with a gun.

Several high school and middle school students have been arrested and a few of them had charges submitted against them.

Two girls, 14 and 15 years old, said they plotted to shoot up to 14 of their classmates at Kingman High School because they had allegedly been bullied, police said.

“Bullying is a huge problem for kids in schools,” said Riley Wilson back in 2018 during a Senate Appropriations Committee, when she pushed for HB 2489 to be passed in Arizona.

The bill would create an anonymous tip line for students to report things like bullying, suicide, or potential school shootings.

RELATED: 2 teens plotted to shoot several students at Arizona high school, police say

Wilson and her sister first came up with the bill idea in their 8th-grade civics class. 

“Every year I have my students write bills,” their teacher Anna Andrews said. “Sometimes they get kind of goofy, like introducing a bill to ban homework, but some of them take it really seriously.”

After the bill ‘passed’ in their classroom legislature, the sisters took the assignment to the state’s legislature, where they got Sen. Paul Boyer and Sen. Kate Brophy McGee to sponsor the bill.

“Students almost know everything that is going on in school, especially on social media,” Wilson said during her speech to state leaders on March 23, 2018. “Let us the students be part of the safety plans in our school.”

Wilson made her case to fund her idea, now incorporated into an already established program called Safe2Tell - an app and phone number that allows students to report threats or concerns anonymously.

The tips get directed to anyone that can help, including to police, the schools and sometimes family.

Safe2Tell was first implemented in Colorado in 2004 after the Columbine High School massacre where 12 students and a teacher were killed.

But the bill stalled in Arizona seven days after Wilson’s speech and did not get any action after that day.

“If it were to be implemented, I think it would make a huge difference,” said Andrews. “The fact that they did see it all the way through and then nothing happened from it, is extremely frustrating.”

Safe2Tell is a tool Andrew believes can help curve the rise in reported threats and incidents Arizonans have seen in recent weeks.

“This is just one more resource for kids to have some kind of reporting in a way that would make them feel comfortable,” she added.

It’s unclear if the bill will be reintroduced in the future.

RELATED: 'It was really, really horrible': Parent describes scene at El Mirage school during lockdown

School threats in recent weeks

Legacy Traditional School, Queen Creek

August 25 – A child brought a gun to school. Police later submitted charges against the student and their parents.

Prescott Valley Charter Schools, Prescott

August 26 weekend – Two students were arrested for allegedly making a video threatening to “shoot up” the school.

Cochise Elementary School, Cochise County

August 29 – A 7-year-old was found with two guns and ammunition in his backpack

Mesquite Junior High, Gilbert

August 29 – A student was found to be in possession of a BB gun. Gilbert police said they were submitting charges of disorderly conduct.

Circle Cross Ranch, San Tan Valley

August 31 – An 8th grader took a gun to school. Pinal County Sheriff’s Office spoke to the student the next day and he admitted to taking a gun to school the day prior but had no weapons that day.

Archway Classical Academy Veritas – Great Hearts, Phoenix

August 31 – Police responded to a threatening note found by a student. The school canceled classes due to the threats. Two people were detained.

Central High School, Phoenix

September 1 – Phoenix police responded to a social media threat and the school went into lockdown. One person was detained.

Sierra Linda High School, Phoenix

September 1 – Police said they investigated an alleged threat.

Kingman High School, Kingman

August 31 – Authorities investigated threats of a possible shooting.

September 2 -- Two teens were found to have been plotting to shoot up to 14 students, after allegedly being bullied

Basis Charter School, Scottsdale

September 6 – 10-year-old student wrote a threatening note, implying a school shooting. He later told police it was a “joke.”

Paradise Valley High School, Paradise Valley

September 7 – A “vague threat” was investigated after it was found written in one of the girls’ restrooms.

Horizon High School, Scottsdale

September   7 – A female student was arrested after multiple threats were found on campus.

Paradise Honors Middle School, Surprise

September 12 – An 11-year-old student was arrested on suspicion of threatening to bring a gun and kill people. Police said the student told a classmate about their alleged plan, who alerted school officials.

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