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Bill passes to create statewide student safety tip line

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SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to create a statewide tip line for students to report and receive help in dealing with violence, threats or suicide gained unanimous approval from members of the Utah Senate on Monday.

SB232, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, creates a commission to study the logistics and feasibility of creating a dedicated phone line, which would allow school faculty, parents or students to make anonymous calls to licensed clinical social workers.

The bill originally called for the dialing code 311 to be set aside for the tip line, but it hit a snag as municipal officials worried residents were already familiar with 311 as a nonemergency public safety line.

The bill was amended Monday to only call for the creation of an exploratory commission, but Thatcher said the bill's House sponsor is working to resolve the dialing code issues and substitute the bill language.

But, in its current state, Thatcher said, the bill would still help in creating a resource for students who are otherwise scared or embarrassed to come forward.

"These children need our help," he said. "This will allow us to provide help for people who are currently unable to find it anywhere else."

Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, questioned whether the bill's language — which allows for a public school student, parent, school employee,or citizen to anonymously report unsafe, violent or criminal activities — was too broad.

"I wonder if the original intent, which was to prevent suicide, is maybe being diluted a little bit here," she said.

Thatcher said the bill is modeled after a successful program in Colorado that was created following the Columbine High School shootings. He said Colorado's tip line receives thousands of calls each month and has proved effective in connecting students with a trained interventionist.

"This would apply to any type of situation that requires attention," Thatcher said.

The bill was approved in a 23-0 vote and will now go before the House for consideration.

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