Law enforcement encourages schools to use texting tip line

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Texting is normally a way for kids to ask, "What's for dinner?" or "Do you want to see a movie tonight?"

But now in South Dakota, they can use it to improve their safety.

We tell you how law enforcement officials are using texting to keep children safe while at school.

With kids back in school across South Dakota, safety is at the forefront of everyone's mind.

And to help keep kids safe, Attorney General Marty Jackley launched Project Stand Up - Safe Schools.

Project Stand Up originally started as a drug tip line, but now, school districts throughout the state can use it to better protect students.

Katy Urban, communications manager, Rapid City Area Schools, says, "We have seen more mass shootings in schools recently. We've also had a number of them that were thwarted just because people spoke up and did something. This is just another opportunity that makes it really easy for students to say hey, I'm concerned about this. It's efficient. It's how kids communicate, through text."

Whether you're a student or faculty member, if you observe suspicious behavior in your school, you can use this free and anonymous texting service.

You can text the word "SAFE" to 82257, and eight questions will be sent back to you to help describe the situation.

For the Rapid City Area School district, the answers are then sent to law enforcement officers, the assistant superintendent, and the school district's communications manager.

Hope Bearden, school resource officer, Pennington County Sheriff's Office, says, "We can't look at everything 24 hours a day. We have to have the help from the community. We have to have their eyes. We can't be everywhere at the same time."

The Douglas School District also has their own "Safe Schools Alert" system.

You can be anonymous and send information via email, text, or phone call to 844-325-8063.

Hope Beardensays, "I think it's important. Everybody wants to make sure that kids are safe at school. We want to make sure that we have good communications with the public, with the parents, as well as the students and teachers. Like I always tell my kids, if you see something, say something."

School resource officer Hope Bearden says they take all threats seriously, and she encourages you to go with your gut feeling if you think something's not right.

For emergencies, Bearden says you should still call 911.