Students often won't talk to their parents, teachers, ministers, or others in authority.

That's part of growing up.

But tragedy can happen when they don't talk to someone about a friend considering suicide or about someone they suspect may be planning an attack on a school.

The State of Wyoming, working with school districts and mental health professionals, has adopted a computer and phone application tip line -- Safe2Tell Wyoming -- for people to confidentially report potentially harmful and violent behaviors.

State Auditor Cynthia Cloud knows first-hand the consequences of young people not talking, and believes Safe2Tell will bridge that communication gap, she said at a press conference at the Pathways Innovation Center school on Wednesday.

Her son Connor committed suicide in March, and his friends knew he was thinking about it, she said.

I do not want another child to be burdened with the guilt of knowing that 'I could have done something, but yet I didn't do it,

 

"I really believe that my son could have been saved if this app had been available in March, on March 20th when he took his own life," Cloud said.

Students use social media to talk to each other and share their feelings and what's happening in their lives. They don't talk to teachers, counselors or parents, she said.

"My son told three individuals that he was going to do this, starting on Wednesday, and it happened on Sunday," Cloud said.

"They just didn't know what to do with this information," she said. "Maybe they were afraid they were going to make my son angry if they told someone. Or maybe they thought they could solve this on their own. When you're dealing with suicide or violence or ideas like this, it's just bigger than what a young individual can handle on their own. They need help."

Cloud believes Safe2Tell will enable and encourage people, not just students, to notify professionals who can help someone, she said.

"I do not want another child to be burdened with the guilt of knowing that 'I could have done something, but yet I didn't do it,'" Cloud said. "I don't want a child to receive a text message from a younger brother saying, you know, 'Connor's gone,' when the last communication they had was 'I'm going to kill myself.'"

Cloud and other state officials, legislators who crafted the bill, school officials and law enforcement want all community members to download the Safe2Tell app.

Guy Cameron, director of the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, said Gov. Matt Mead wanted a way to help prevent school shootings and other violent behaviors in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.

State officials decided to develop a program based on Colorado's successful Safe2Tell Colorado, Cameron said.

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed, and Mead signed, the bill authorizing Safe2Tell Wyoming.

The program, Cameron said, has three core components: education and awareness to improve school safety, prevention and early intervention while protecting the reporter's confidentiality, and accountability and follow-up to ensure authorities properly handled a situation.

When someone submits a tip, the information is handled by the Wyoming Highway Patrol's dispatch center on a 24 hour/seven-day-a-week basis. The information is passed to local responders who can intervene in a crisis.

Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, worked on the bill, and contrasted it with the new Pathways Innovation Center where the press conference was held. "What good is a beautiful environment when our students and teachers don't feel safe?"

Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michal said his father was the principal of a large high school, and his wife has been a teacher for 30 years.

Nip these situations in the bud and help those students move on with their lives and prevent their personal tragedies and other personal tragedies.

The cost of the program -- funded mostly from federal grants -- will be greatly outweighed by the benefits, Michael said.

He and others said Safe2Tell will be worth it if just one life is saved.

Saving even one life, Michael said, will prevent a lot of heartache in the larger community. At the school where his wife teaches, a student committed suicide and the fallout affected not only their family but also the education environment for months, he said.

The state is launching Safe2Tell in the Natrona County School District, and it will be in effect throughout school districts in the state by the end of the year, Michael said. The Attorney General's office wants to hear from them and encourage students to download the apps on their phones.

"Nip these situations in the bud and help those students move on with their lives and prevent their personal tragedies and other personal tragedies," Michael said.

Safe2Tell, Wyoming Attorney General