JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri State Highway Patrol says it’s received more than 90 threats against schools so far this year through its app “Courage2Report.”
Students, parents, community members, and even educators can report any type of threat at the touch of a finger on their phone. With a large increase in reports since last year, the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) said it’s now more important than ever to use the program.
“Sometimes we will have two or three tips a day that require immediate action of law enforcement,” said Lt. Eric Brown with MSHP. “Local law enforcement is advised of every tip that comes in, even if it appears to be something low level.”
It was a tragic scene last month as dozens of students and teachers ran from the Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis as police said a gunman opened fire. Police said 19-year-old Orlando Harris used an AR-15 style rifle, shooting and killing 16-year-old Alexandria Bell and 61-year-old PE teacher Jean Kuczka.
Brown said the “Courage2Report” app has prevented tragedies in the past and hopes more people will use the program.
“We do receive a lot of threats of school shootings or a targeted act of violence towards certain children, but a lot of the tips that we receive are related to bullying,” Brown said.
MSHP, the Department of Social Services and the Missouri School Board Association released the program in 2019, and it’s free for schools. It allows a family member, student or teacher to anonymously report a threat or bullying.
According to MSHP, so far this year, more than 900 tips have been reported. That’s a 51% increase from 2021. There’s also been 87 school shooting threats and 4 planned attacks. Since the program went live, bullying and cyberbullying make up for nearly 30% of the 2,225 tips MSHP has received. There’s also been 170 reports of school shootings, 97 reports of threat to kill others, 84 reports of sex offenses and 81 tips of someone being in possession of a gun.
“People are becoming more aware of the threats of violence in schools, and they are also becoming more aware of the various things you can use that system for,” Brown said.
Compared to 2021 when there were only 897 tips in all, MSHP believes since the system debuted during COVID-19, there wasn’t much advertising. Now, with the number of tips doubling in a year and multiple reports of school threats a day, Brown encourages everyone to download the app.
“Hopefully, we are seeing an increase in reports because people just became more aware and are more concerned about the safety of their schools,” Brown said. “They are more concerned about the safety of their children that are there, and they are concerned about the safety of their staff and are choosing to make the decision to report something.”
Brown said it has become an issue where people are reporting threats that are fake, but no matter if it’s real or a prank, law enforcement investigates all tips.
“For anyone that’s thinking about taking those type of steps and making false threats, it is a crime, and it has serious repercussions,” Brown said. “Just by causing that scare in the community, they can be guilty of a crime such as making a terroristic threat, but they are also putting the greater public at harm.”
The program works like this. First, the parent or student reports the problem on the app, hotline or online. The administration, school resource officer, local law enforcement and the Missouri State Highway Patrol are notified of the report. Then, they can take action to stop the threat and offer services to the student.
Since 2016, MSHP also has been using a school walkthrough initiative. It allows troopers to enter schools at random times throughout the day and school year, helping grow relationships because of officers and the school community.
“It gets our troopers the knowledge of the layout of the building if there ever is an act of violence there, they know that building and they know where to go,” Brown said. “It also allows our troopers to have more contact with young kids and build a rapport with them, so they are comfortable around law enforcement.
Every Missouri school is registered on the “Courage2Report” app. Courage2Report operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you don’t want to download the free app, you can submit a report by phone (866-748-7047) or on the website.