SafeUT app helps parents, students and schools during safety threats

Dec 14, 2021, 6:24 PM | Updated: 9:15 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The supervisor of the SafeUT app said days like Utah experienced on Monday — with several school safety threats — show the vital role the app plays in helping students, parents and school administrators.

“We tend to notice a lot of anxiety around these events with students and parents,” Dénia-Marie Ollerton, the SafeUT supervisor with the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, said.

Ollerton said when a tip comes in through the app, it’s assessed for risk and then sent to the school immediately.

“Even if it’s three in the morning, if we have to, we’ll wake administrators up and say, ‘We’ve got to handle this ASAP,’” she said.

When the SafeUT app receives multiple tips about the same topic, Ollerton said it shows that the community is working together, and that parents and students aren’t assuming that someone else has reported the possible threat. She reminds that all tips are confidential.

“We take that very seriously, and that’s a huge part of the success where people feel comfortable to send in a confidential tip,” Ollerton said. “They don’t have to say who they are, but they can report something that they’ve seen.”

In the case of West High School on Monday where police said a student brought a gun to school, a spokesperson for the district said students who saw a concerning post on social media quickly told school officials, prompting a lockdown.

“I think the main thing to take away from this is that tragedy was avoided because students spoke up and did the right thing,” Yándary Chatwin, spokesperson for the Salt Lake City School District, said.

Once the school was in lockdown, Chatwin said school administrators also received the same tip through the SafeUT app.

“The SafeUT app is an incredible resource, and anyone watching this who has a student or who is a student should absolutely download that to their cell phones right now,” Chatwin said.

The free app is available 24 hours a day for students, parents and educators. In addition to the tip line, there is also a crisis chat line with connections to licensed counselors.

“In talking about, ‘Hey, my school went on lockdown and it’s scary,’ or, ‘Hey, my kid’s school went on lockdown. What do I tell them?’ We’re there to help walk you through those moments,” Ollerton said.

Ollerton said it’s important to raise awareness about the app as students head into the holiday break from school.

“We do see around the holidays a lot more intense feeling about the stress and anxiety and any conflict at home or fear of going back to school,” Ollerton said. “And so we really look just to support these students.”

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SafeUT app helps parents, students and schools during safety threats