By this time next year, parents, teachers and students in all North Carolina public middle and high schools will be able to report anonymous threats using a new statewide app.
The development of the app comes several years after the state started a pilot program called Speak Up in five N.C. school districts.
State records show in its first year alone, the Speak Up app collected 132 verified tips in Avery, Forsyth, Johnston, Macon and Wayne counties.
Most of the tips focused on bullying, danger and drugs. Before the start of this school year, the state reported almost 3,000 people had downloaded the Speak Up app as part of the pilot program.
According to North Carolina's request for information, the new, much larger statewide app, which will likely have a different name, will target bullying, fighting, drugs, weapons, underage drinking, human trafficking and danger inside every public middle and high school.
A spokesperson said the $5 million price tag won't just cover its creation, it will also pay for a 24/7 support center that will connect police and administrators to the tips that come in in real time.
"The app will be operational in time for the 2019-20 school year," N.C. Department of Public Instruction Communications Director Drew Elliot said.
North Carolina School Counselor Association President Tim Hardin said he thinks putting students' safety at their fingertips in an anonymous way is a good step toward even safer schools.
"A lot of times people, students especially, they want to help and maybe they're scared to help if they know their identities will be revealed," Hardin said. "It would certainly give us some information a lot of times we may not have to help us spot these issues earlier before they become a serious issue."
A spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Education said officials in the Palmetto State wants to see what they can learn from North Carolina and other states.
"There have been discussions on something similar between our agency and state law enforcement but as of right now it is still in discussion phase," Chief Communications Officer Ryan Brown said. "A number of school districts and universities in South Carolina have these so the technology is there. We will be following along to see what we can learn from NC and other states around the country that have implemented."
North Carolina's app is different than the Stand Up-Speak Out bullying website Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools started using in April.