Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Hot line can tip schools to danger

Administrators say service helps head off trouble

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Even before a student at one of the district's middle schools decided he would take a gun to class Monday, Mount Healthy City Schools was prepared for the possibility.

        The district is one of at least 27 in Southwest Ohio that use a school hot line, where anonymous callers can “tip” authorities to possible disruptive activity on school grounds.

        Administrators Monday night said no tip was reported to the line because no one saw the weapon until moments before the 14- year-old eighth-grader used it.

        However, they said they are going to work to educate students about the hot line and the need to report possible danger.

        Tristate educators dread that call that says a student may be coming to school carrying a gun and a grudge. But they would rather be warned of potential violence than fall victim to it.

        That's why officials in several Tristate school districts say they're glad they signed on with the Safe School Helpline, an anonymous safety hot line operated by Columbus-based Security Voice Inc. The company has at least 1,000 clients nationwide.

        A year ago, in an interview with the Enquirer, Jerry Oberdorf, Mount Healthy City School's director of administrative services, said the hot line had helped head off trouble.

        In 1998, a tip enabled school officials to alert parents to a student who reportedly showed off a knife on a bus. Parents then found it in the student's book bag, Mr. Oberdorf said. He said that as a result of the tip line, school suspensions and expulsions were down.

        • The hot line in Greater Cincinnati — (800) 418-6423, Ext. 359 — is available to report wrongdoing or illegal activity. Callers are kept anonymous.

        If the call sounds serious — such as a student threatening to bring a weapon — the school administration is immediately notified, and schools can call police.

        • For information about the service, call (800) 325-4381.

        • Cincinnati Public Schools has its own in-house “safe line”: 369-3333. But people should call 911 in an emergency.


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