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Shelley Osterloh ReportingOnce again the issue of school safety is in the limelight after a 17-year old Minnesota boy killed nine people in the bloodiest school shooting since Columbine. Shelley Osterloh takes a look at some of the lessons learned.
After the shootings at Columbine High school six years ago, Colorado officials developed some policies to make their schools safer. The Safe2Tell Program empowers students, teachers and others to anonymously report information to authorities.
The US Secret Service reports that in 75% of violent incidents in US Schools, someone other than the attacker knew it was going to happen but failed to report it. To make it easier to report troubling or threatening behavior before it becomes violent Colorado authorities set up a free anonymous phone line that anyone can call.
Susan Payne, Safe2Tell Colorado Crime Stopper Program: "We are saying, ‘If you have a safety concern, something about your safety or the safety of someone else, we want you to call and give us that information.’"
Susan Payne was an FBI trained Colorado police officer for 16 years. She heads the Safe2Tell crime stopper program. In addition to the anonymous tip line she stresses students, teachers and parents need to help identify troubled kids before it’s too late.
Susan Payne: “We really need to focus on saying, ‘What can we do to intervene so that this does not create a problem down the line for anyone else or for this child?’"
Pat Rusk, President of the Utah Educational Association says identifying troubled students can be difficult for teachers, especially with the large class sizes in Utah schools.
Pat Rusk, Pres. of UEA: "Do we have too many kids to really get to know them and to really have the time? What are you going to do for troubled kids in the three or four minutes a day you may be able to talk to them? We need more counselors. Those kinds of things, I think, are the things we would like to see in place from the beginning, so we never get to this point."
Payne emphasizes the solutions require everyone involved working together to make schools safer.
Susan Payne: "It’s about parents and communities and schools and law enforcement, and all of the different things working together to create a higher level of awareness, and really setting the standard in what we are going to accept and what we are not going to accept in schools. The put-downs, the shunning, the different types of bullying those are all the precursors to the violence we see."
Much has been done to make Utah schools safer and there are several groups in Utah working on the problem. Among them is the State Office of Education, which created a special task force as a response to a KSL investigation on Bullying in the schools.