SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Students in northwest Louisiana have access to an app that provides young people with a way to report issues that threaten campus safety or the if they know a fellow student plans to self harm.

Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans developed the Safe Schools Louisiana app in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Education and the Louisiana State Police to provide students the ability to communicate any school safety issue anonymously.

Darlene Cusanza, President and CEO of Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans says the app is a means of empowering students.

“The Safe Schools Louisiana app, actually this is a program that we’ve done for many, years. But what we know about violence prevention and empowering students to really make a difference on their campuses when we talk about school safety. It’s allowing them a way to report and report in a way they feel safe, and that’s usually anonymously.”

Cusanza says that providing students with a means to communicate safety issues using technology is just part of the evolution of Crimestoppers in order to meet students where they are.

“Before anonymous reporting apps it was our hotline, then it was our text to tip. The kids are in social media, this is how they communicate. So hotlines, not so much but definitely through social media now and or web browsers which is another option they can go through with safeschoolsla.com,” Cusanza said.

The program is available free of charge to any school system across the state.

Bossier Parish Schools were recently added to the app. That means the school district has recieved the necessary onboarding and training required to provide students and families with information about the app.

Cusanza says that while any student in the state can access the app, there are features that are available for partner schools like marketing materials, presentations on prevention topics. She says a multifaceted approach ensures the app yields the best results for users, that means looking and behaving in a way that students are familiar with.

“We want to make sure we’re talking in the kids languages, we’re reaching all the aspects in their life, their parents know about this. Making it the best possible solution for out students.”

Safe Schools Louisiana has seen some success. Cusanza says reporting through the app has led to the removal of weapons from school campuses.

The app is meant to be preventative rather than an emergency line like 911 or 988, the suicide hotline.

The app works best when students, parents or school staff are reporting information when they learn of a credible threat not when the threat is in action.

Cusanza said that the thing she impresses most on school systems is the importance of the app looking and sounding like something that teens would want to utilize and engage with. What the kids are saying is I don’t know you, and you don’t know me – and that’s how basic we need to be with this language.

“We have student leaders that are part of our teen ambassadors program and we talk to them. We ask what do you think this should say, what would it look like. So a lot of our imaging is not going to look like an anonymous reporting app and that’s intentional.”

Cusanza says the best ambassadors to get kids engaged in campus safety is the students themselves. So its important to have them buy into the idea that the app is not going to identify them or put them in a position to face retaliation. She says teen ambassadors have been crucial in building trust between Safe Schools Louisiana and the students it is meant to help protect.