At Frisco ISD, one of the first lessons students are learning this school year is that their words matter.
As the district rolls out a new anonymous reporting app called STOP !T, it's also educating students on how and when to use it.
"Who can think of something that could happen if you report something that isn't accurate?" asked Lt. Mike Hagan of the Frisco Police Department as he spoke with a group of sixth graders at Lawler Middle School last week.
Hagan told students they could face jail time for knowingly reporting a false threat, but he also explained sharing a tip that isn't confirmed wouldn't necessarily get a student in trouble.
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"Last year we had some threats come through and police officers, the school resource officers, were woken up at 2, 3 o'clock in the morning," Hagan told students. "We found some were not true threats. These are kids trying to get out of tests, trying to get out of paper work something like that. And some of those kids were arrested."
"What if you like hear something, but you're not actually sure if it's right?" asked one student.
"Still tell us, report it on the STOP !T app, tell your teacher, tell the police officer," responded Hagan. He added it's helpful if a student can explain they're not sure of the threat.
The "Words Matter" campaign, designed to roll out with the STOP !T app, is one of the latest tools Frisco ISD is launching to improve security in schools.
The district added staff to free up more counselors, bought hand-held metal detectors and launched a pilot ID badge program in certain schools.
But Lawler Middle School counselor Cara Yeates explained that meeting students where they are, which is often on their phones, is a critical component to ensuring students are safe.
"With the internet and how kids communicate, most of the bullying is not done in front of our eyes. Teachers don't see it. It's done in private, it's done online, its done very quietly," Yeates explained. "So giving those bystanders a chance to step up and say something is really important."
The STOP !T app replaces Frisco's "ChooseToCare" anonymous online tip line and website. The new app allows students to send information about threats or concerns while allowing two-way communication. Administrators will be able to respond with questions, even if the tip is anonymous.
Users can use the app to upload screen shots, pictures and videos to share with administrators. A user can see when the tip has been read and will learn when the investigation is closed.
Students, district wide, are encouraged to download it and use it to report concerns they may not want to report in person. The app also offers information about suicide hotlines and non-emergency police contacts.
The district is sharing education with parents about the app. The program will still offer an online, web-based option for those who don't have mobile phones.
"We're hoping that the bystanders will be the ones that can come forward anonymously. Maybe the people who know it's wrong but aren't sure how to report it or don't want to come and talk to an adult in person," Yeates said.
"The ultimate goal is to keep the kids safe. Knowing they have a voice even if they don't want to reach out to an adult, they can still report these things," Hagan said. "If they've overheard something in the hallway it's an easy way to report it."