A news conference on Tuesday, March 6, in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shootings in February, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts and FBI Special Agent Renn Cannon discussed threats to schools and steps being taken to cultivate safe environments.
The conversation focused on the Safe Oregon tip line, which gives students and other school community members a way to report threats to law enforcement. The tip line was established by House Bill 4075 and launched in January 2017.
"In school shootings, often somebody knows something ahead of time," said Roberts, who chairs the Governor's Task Force on School Safety. "In Oregon, there wasn't a platform except for 911. We saw the need for a statewide text tip line."
Through the Safe Oregon program, tips can be submitted through email, phone calls, text, a mobile app and a web portal. When tips are sent in, they go immediately to a technician for analysis. They are then sent to designated school personnel who can help resolve the incidents and connect students with resources.
Across the state, 910 schools, including four schools in the Estacada School District, have signed up to use the tip line.
Though Oregon Trail School District isn't enrolled, it partners with the Sandy Police Department to conduct "Run, Hide, Fight" training. For six years, the district has taught its staff and students the specific practices to use in the case of an active shooter or other dangerous circumstances.
"Public (education) has been a target-rich environment in the 21st Century," school district Superintendent Aaron Bayer added. "We're always talking to kids about safety."
Once a school has enrolled in the Safe Oregon tip line, a primary point of contact and two secondary points of contacts are assigned. Contacts receive information when a tip is sent and have information about best practices for following up on tips.
Schools can sign up to participate in the tip line at www.safeoregon.com/contact.
The tip line is facilitating a variety of conversations in Oregon schools. Excerpts of incidents reported across the state include, "He threatened to load a gun and made hand gestures of shooting a gun at everyone in the class, especially the teachers," and "She was offering to sell marijuana edibles to students for a sale price."
In Estacada, School District Communications Coordinator Maggie Kelly praised several aspects of the Safe Oregon tip line, particularly its accessibility to students and discreet ways of reporting.
"Some students might be afraid of being seen walking to the office to report (incidents)," Kelly said.
From Sept. 1 through Nov. 30 of last year, Safe Oregon received 124 tips from schools across the state. The top-three types of incidents reported were bullying or harassment; possession, use or distribution of drugs; and threats to safety.
From December 2017 to February 2018, Safe Oregon received 381 tips. In this period, reports of bullying or harassment, threats to safety and possession, use or distribution of drugs had all increased from the previous quarter.
Cannon noted that tips to the FBI of threats in Oregon have increased since the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 people were killed. Cannon attributed this to both a higher number of incidents and an increase in perception of them.
"People are more aware and more in tune," he said.
Cannon praised the efforts of the Governor's Task Force on School Safety.
"There are great things going on here in Oregon," he said. "A lot of people are concerned and doing the right thing."
Roberts noted that he looks forward to continued collaboration to ensure safety in Oregon schools.
"When I look at this challenge, it's not a simple thing, but it's about us working together," he said.
Locally, the Sandy Police Department is responding to parents' concerns about the safety in the Oregon Trail School District and is hosting a town hall gathering to discuss the department's plans for responding to an event, such as an active shooter situation. At 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, Sandy police officers will share information and field questions from the public at Cedar Ridge Middle School, 17100 Bluff Road.
"I think what we've done with the Oregon Trail School District is way ahead of the curve in terms of kids safe," Sandy Police Chief Ernie Roberts said.