Anonymous text service lets students send sensitive info to officials

Posted at 10:10 PM, Nov 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-26 15:15:10-05

WEBER COUNTY, Utah -- From bullying, to drugs, to depression, these are just a few of the issues facing students in Utah schools on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, many of these problems are not dealt with until it is too late.

Weber County is working to change that one text at a time.

New this year for students in the Weber and Ogden School Districts is the Friends Hotline. It only accepts text messages and it's completely anonymous, so students can feel safe passing along important information to police about what's going on in their school.

"Most of the time students don't trust adults as much as we should and I think that some students trust their friends with information and we don't know what to do with that information," said Bailey De Vries, a senior at Fremont High School.

De Vries is a major advocate for the Friends Hotline. She said if it had been available sooner it could have saved one of her friend’s lives.

"She ended up committing suicide and I think if she would have had a friend that felt like she could have told an adult we probably would have been able to help her," De Vries said.

The Friends Hotline is available 24/7.

Students send a text to the number crimes (274637).  Then in the message they write the keyword “friends” followed by a space and the school they attend. Then it's up to the student to report as much information as they feel comfortable.

"All the texts that come in go through the Real-Time Crime Center then get dispersed to those who need to know what's taking place," said Nate Taggart, of the Weber School District.

"It allows students to get their message across without putting a name to it," said Dallin Fisher, a senior at Fremont High School.

Fisher said he watched as a friend was bullied for months, but made him promise not to tell anyone. Fisher said this hotline was the outlet he desperately needed.

"Sometimes your friends they trust you and they tell you things that they don't tell anyone else and they'll tell you, 'hey I got this problem but don't tell anyone,' when you know that you should tell and it's the right thing to do," Fisher said.

The Weber County Sheriff’s Office says this hotline allows them to solve problems before they even start.

"Most of the times in all cases there is either a friend, or a student or a peer that knew that something was going to happen but they didn't know what to do with the information," said Deputy Paul Babinsky, Fremont High School Resource Officer.

"This gives us one more avenue to have students give us the information before a tragedy occurs," Taggart said.

"Every student should know that this system is available for them to use and to use it," said Taylor Williams, a senior at Fremont High School.