Student tip line considered for NMUSD

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District is considering whether to implement a tip line that would allow students to privately report bullying, fighting, drugs and alcohol on campus, among other things.

The goal of the proposed program is to give students a way to alert district officials about potential dangers.

The text tips wouldn't be anonymous, but they would be confidential, said district spokeswoman Laura Boss.

She announced the program's impending launch to trustees during the Oct. 22 meeting. However, after Trustee Katrina Foley raised concerns about the confidentiality of the program, Supt. Fred Navarro agreed to postpone the launch.

"I'm just raising the red flags that we need to discuss before we move forward," Foley said this week. "It needs to be a process that people can't abuse or use for retaliatory purposes."

The district's legal department is reviewing the proposal, which will be presented to the school board for possible approval in the near future, Navarro said.

Jane Garland, district director of community services and support, came up with the idea.

"Since kids like to text more than any other means of communication, I believe it may get them involved in proactively helping us help them keep their sites safe and peaceful," she wrote in an email.

Boss said the concept mirrors what the Orange County Sheriff's Department is doing with its Text to Tip program.

The department has partnered with districts in Orange County, including the Placentia-Yorba Linda, Brea Olinda, Capistrano Valley and Saddleback Valley unified school districts, to implement the Text to Tip program, said sheriff's Sgt. Quyen Vuong.

He said the program is well utilized by students and has helped officers find a handgun on a campus and prevent fights and suicides.

"When we started the program, we thought we would be bombarded with bogus tips, but in actuality we probably get five to 10 tips a week," Vuong said. "The kids respect the program."

It is unclear whether the Costa Mesa or Newport Beach police departments will play a role in the proposed Newport-Mesa Tip Line.

Boss declined to elaborate further until the proposal has been reviewed by the legal department.

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