Stopping the Violence

by Melissa Brunner

More details are emerging today about the tragic shooting outside an Ohio school that has claimed three lives. Among tidbits law enforcement sources are offering is that the alleged shooter, TJ Lane, warned his friends about what he was planning two days before the shooting.

What is a teenager to do with that information? In Kansas, they can call the toll-free School Safety Hotline at 1-877-626-8203.

The hotline was started in 1999 as a response to the shootings at Columbine High School. It aims to give students, parents and community members a place to report threats of violence or impending violence. Callers may remain anonymous. Law enforcement and education officials believe students often have knowledge of violence before it happens. If they can make a phone call and not be identified, they might be more likely to report it.

The hotline has logged thousands of calls during its years of existence. They covered a range of issues from alleged plots to attack classmates, bomb threats, drugs, fights that were planned. Many reports turned up nothing, but each is followed up on because, after all, you wouldn't want to have the threat you dismissed be the one that ends up being carried out. Of all those calls, from August of 1999 to the end of last year, the Kansas Highway Patrol referred 984 of them to law enforcement and/or school officials to look at more closely. Last year, 64 were referred. In the first six months of the hotline in 1999, 143 calls were referred. (Thanks to Dale Dennis at the Department of Education for his efforts in getting me the updated numbers.)

As we remind our students that this resource exists, adults must also remind themselves that they must be an example in keeping our communities safe. If you see something out of place, report it to authorities. Just as what the kids hear in the halls can prevent an attack at school, so can what you hear on your sidewalks and see out your winder prevent potential crime in your neighborhood.

Here again is the number: 1-877-626-8203

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