The most visible school security measures — police officers, cameras, metal detectors — have dominated research and public debate on school safety for decades. School administrators looking for the best ways to protect students and reassure families now have evidence for another, less visible tool: anonymous reporting systems.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funded a randomized controlled trial in Miami, which found that students at schools with an anonymous reporting system experienced 13.5% fewer violent incidents than students at schools without it.[1]

Why might anonymous reporting systems help prevent school violence? In most planned school attacks, at least one person close to the attacker knows about the plan ahead of time.[2] But a “code of silence” often keeps students from reporting on a classmate.[3] Tip lines and other systems that allow students to share their safety concerns anonymously — by phone, online, or in a mobile app — offer a way to overcome that barrier.

Drs. Hsing-Fang Hsieh and Justin Heinze speak with the NIJ about their project on ARS