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New tipline for school problems

by Christina Nelson

Douglas High School students and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office collaborated to unveil a new anonymous tip hotline to report problems at area schools.

The Sheriff’s Office and the Douglas High School Peer Court, a group of 20 DHS students, generated the idea for the “Stop the Violence – School Safety Hotline.”

The 24-hour hotline is different from the Secret Witness hotline in operation now because it will deal solely with school altercations. Also, there will be a person answering the phone instead of a recording, officials said.

Because of the volume of calls received by the secret witness hotline, a call from a student about a school conflict would be placed on the bottom of the priority list. The new hotline is expected to solve this problem, officials said.

Sheriff Ron Pierini said his office has been trying to think of solutions to on-campus bullying and intimidation, the roots of the Littleton, Colo., conflict, for the past year and a half.

“This phone is directed toward school activity,” he said. The hotline will give students “the ability and opportunity to report an incident that is going to or may happen.”

After a call is made, the information will be passed on to the sheriff’s office and school officials. The Sheriff’s Department Repeat Offender Team, four deputies who have been through training in youth conflict resolution, will then be responsible for following up on the information received.

Alicia Burns, a member of the peer court, said that school officials cannot always recognize when incidents occur because many times they happen at off-campus locations.

“Every time one of these incidents happens, it decreases the spirit of our school,” she said.

“What we want to instill in people is that this number is going to be available from now on,” said Sgt. Stan Lamb, the coordinator of the school safety grant.

Lamb said that the peer court had the right to limit the hotline to the Douglas High School campus, but insisted that it be used at all Douglas County schools.

“Problems that occur at the high school level don’t necessarily start at the high school level,” said Lauren Davis, also a member of the peer court.

Erin Bell, former student body president at DHS and a member of the court, said that students not reporting incidents of intimidation is part of an “unwritten law.”

“Nobody wants to step up and be the tattle-tale,” she said.

The students and officials hope this hotline will eliminate the chances of DHS becoming a potential Columbine.

The hotline will be advertised at DHS, the two middle schools and other places where teen-agers hang out. Even though the hotline is to report school incidents, students are encouraged to call when classes are not in session.

“This is a really great resource to be able to identify a kid that we’re worried about,” said Superintendent Pendery Clark.

To leave an anonymous tip with the school safety hotline, call 783-SAFE.