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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio began offering an anonymous tip line this month designed to alert local law enforcement officials to school safety issues.
The Ohio Department of Education says individual schools or districts representing some 200 buildings signed up for the free SaferOH tip line within the first day this month. It accepts calls or texts 24 hours a day.
Under the program, students and adults may share information with school officials and law enforcement on, for example, threatened mass shootings or bullying. School safety analysts may ask for additional information, but the caller can remain secret or leave contact information for later follow-up.
"The safety of our boys and girls remains the top priority of our schools," said Superintendent Richard A. Ross. "The SaferOH tip line provides another resource for schools and school districts in their continuing efforts to provide a safe and secure educational environment."
In more than eight in 10 violent incidents in U.S. schools, research shows someone other than the attacker knew something was taking place or about to occur but failed to report it. That can be because they feared being a "snitch" or becoming a target of the bully or attacker.
"This tip line is another tool, to fill the gap in areas where no line exists, that will allow children, parents and teachers to contribute to the safety of their schools," said John Born, director of the Department of Public Safety.
Calls or texts to 844-SaferOH (844-723-3764) are answered by analysts in the Ohio Homeland Security's Threat Assessment and Prevention, or TAP, unit. When action is required, the unit will immediately forward information to local school officials, law enforcement agencies and others.
Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center said tip lines are a positive and proactive way to support safe schools.
"Public awareness of tip lines can also provide a deterrent effect that may preclude acts of crime and violence from occurring by providing an early warning notice to responsible adults, linking victims or potential victims with a network of protective services to support the safety of all children and those professionals who serve them," he said.
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