Researchers from the University of Michigan found that young people submitted thousands of tips each year on firearm-related risks to a North Carolina anonymous reporting system, which gives K-12 students there a way to confidentially report concerning behaviors.
In the study, UM’s Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention in partnership with Sandy Hook Promise analyzed the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System in North Carolina, which serves 103 school districts and 156 charter schools.
Researcher pulled data from more than 18,000 tips made through the system. According to the study, 1 in 10 tips submitted involved firearm-related threats.
Once tips are reported, UM official said they are classified as non-life-threatening or life-threatening by the National Crisis Center, part of the anonymous reporting system.
Of all gun-related tips reported between 2019-23, researchers say 51% were classified as life-threatening, triggering a response from EMS or policing systems or both.
During the study period, the anonymous reporting system led to 1,039 confirmed mental health interventions, which enabled 109 “saves,” defined as where clear evidence of imminent suicide crisis was present and averted, UM researchers said.
The tip line prevented 38 acts of school-violence, including weapons recovered on school grounds, and averted six confirmed planned school attacks, the study found.
Tips that referenced firearms include potential school shootings (38%), seeing or knowing of a weapon (22%), intent for interpersonal violence (9%), bullying or cyberbullying (3%), and suicide (3%), researchers reported.
“The urgency of firearm-related tips highlights the need to educate families on firearm violence prevention, and ensure support and response protocols for school systems,” said Elyse Thulin, lead author of the study and research assistant professor at the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention and adjunct lecturer at the UM School of Public Health.
Researchers said firearm-related injuries are the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the United States and the findings of the study show that youth can play a valuable role in alerting and averting firearms threats.
More than 50% of K-12 schools in the nation use anonymous reporting systems to decrease the burden of firearm injuries, according to the study.
Study authors also included Justin Heinze and Elizabeth Messman, department of health behavior and health education at the UM School of Public Health, and Alex French and Rachel Masi, with the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation.
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.