On April 20, 1999, the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado occurred. This tragic shooting resulted in the deaths of 12 students and one teacher, and the wounding of 27 others.
In 2000, as a result of this tragic incident and to learn from what occurred Colorado Governor Bill Owens created the Columbine Review Commission. One concerning fact discovered during the review into the shooting was the knowledge others students had about concerning behaviors and activities of the two individuals involved; yet no one spoke up. Students have an unwritten “code of silence” amongst themselves; many times driven by fear of retaliation.
After the Columbine shooting, in an attempt to overcome this reluctance to speak up, Colorado adopted an anonymous school safety tip line - Safe2Tell Colorado in 2004. Initially, this program was run as a non-profit group as part of the Crime Stoppers organization. It was not until 2014 that Colorado passed legislation making Safe2Tell Colorado part of the Attorney General’s office.
Immediately following the Sandy Hook shooting in Sandy Hook, CT, on December 14th, 2012, Governor Mead established the School Safety and Security Task Force to examine school safety in Wyoming. The task force, comprised of a multi-disciplined group, published their findings in a report October 24, 2013. This report had recommendations for three areas of school safety: funding for School Resource Officer programs; developing a framework for school building security; and district and school development of a crisis management team with an emphasis on crisis response trainings including Incident Command Systems for Schools.
Concurrently, the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Education Committee began looking at school safety.
Part of this work involved a presentation by Susan Payne, Founding Executive Director of the Safe2Tell Colorado Program. This presentation ultimately led to the creation of the 2015 Wyoming Legislative House Bill 144 (HB144), sponsored by the Education Committee. This bill contained several provisions, including the development of a school safety tip line. Ultimately however, this bill failed to come out of the legislative process at the conclusion of the 2015 session.
At the conclusion of the 2015 legislative session, school safety and security was placed as an interim topic for the Joint Education Committee. During the June 4th and 5th, 2015, committee meeting, the topic of school safety and tip lines were discussed. After this discussion, the Legislative Service Office was directed to draft a bill to create a program similar to Safe2Tell (Colorado).
During the 2016 Legislative Session, House Bill 15 (HB15), sponsored by the Education Committee, was introduced. Included in HB15 were provisions to create a unit of school safety and security within the Division of Criminal Investigations whose duties would include creating and administering a school safety tip line. HB15 bill failed introduction on the 1st day of the legislative session, February 8, 2016.
As a result of the failure of HB 15, Senator Coe along with co-sponsors; Senators Dockstader, Landen, Pappas and Rothfuss and Representatives Harshman, Krone, Northrup and Sommers sponsored Senate File 97.
Senate File 97 (SF97), a condensed version of 2015 HB 144 and 2016 HB 15, contained requirements for the Attorney General to administer a call center and deliver the information received in a confidential manner. SF97 also created protections for the information collected, specifically stating the information related to the operation of the call center was not considered a public record. SF97 was introduced February 11, 2016, and ultimately passed March 3, 2016. SF97 (W.S.S. 9-1-603(a)(ix)(e)) was signed into law by Governor Mead on March 11, 2016, becoming effective immediately.