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Schools, foundation team up to 'boot out bullying'

By Scott Haws | Posted - Mar 25th, 2013 @ 9:16am

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City School District is teaming up with the SafeToTalk Foundation to set up an anonymous tip line at schools and you can help out.

Community members can bring unwanted or unused shoes to one of the Salt Lake City schools or Mountain America Credit Unions. The shoes are thrown into a box, symbolizing "booting out bullying," and then recycled and are donated to the SafeToTalk Foundation. The foundation then donates a tip line to schools to help prevent bullying.

"The tip lines are set up so that each school can receive those tips themselves, and they can respond immediately," said Misty Suarez, director of student services at the Salt Lake City School District.

Since the service began on March 4, more than 50 tips have been received by Salt Lake City schools. The program has flourished across the country, bringing in thousands of tips in other states.

Snapshot from 300 Schools
820 tips of bullying
396 tips of harassment
176 tips of cyper bullying
168 tips of fighting
158 tips of physical abuse
171 tips of suicide

"We get thousands, we're over 10,000 tips so far this year across the country," said Kevin Santiago, founder and director of the SafeToTalk Foundation. "The tips are just shocking sometimes. Most of the time it's kids reaching out and saying, ‘I don't know what to do.' "

Bullying has been a consistent issue within schools, not just in Utah but across the country. It's also been the talk of legislature and studies to figure out the best way of addressing and preventing it from happening. For schools that struggle with tackling bullying, the foundation's tip lines can be a helpful resource.

"It is phenomenal. It gives another outlet for people to respond when they don't want to respond or tell people face to face," said Suarez. "This provides another opportunity for more assistance … and for the communication to increase."

The Boot Out Bullying campaign currently focuses on Utah, Salt Lake, and Davis counties and will continue through March 29. If schools outside those boundaries are interested in a tip line for their school, Santiago said to contact the foundation via its website or call 801-847-5401 to get set up.

"(It's) one more way to start a conversation," Santiago said. "If they can start a conversation, get the help they need, get the courage to face some of their fears, be able to have someone change their behavior, it's really amazing what happens when someone has the chance to speak up."

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