Every day, countless children attend school and are ruthlessly harassed. Untold others bring weapons to school, threatening to harm their peers. Still other innumerable youth attempt suicide. And sometimes, disregarded threats become terrifying reality.
We’ll never have precise statistics to assign to these unsettling truths. Even more sobering are the questions we ask after tragedy strikes: Could it have been prevented? In times of grief, it becomes easy to assign blame. Yet the root of the problem is much simpler than a flawed system or a lack of oversight: the problem is silence. The majority of violent offenses committed in schools—as well as knowledge of violence to come—goes unreported.
The sound of silence
Studies examining patterns of school violence reveal that an offender’s peers are often aware of an incident before it occurs. They overhear a student’s threat, or learn the time and place an attack will occur. Yet embarrassment, reluctance to betray friends’ trust—or fear of being targeted themselves—means that this knowledge is seldom reported. Police, teachers, and other authorities lack crucial, potentially life-saving information until it’s too late.
Schools must help students break their silence. But how can students be encouraged to speak up—and still assured of their safety? One measure is to give a school community access to a free, confidential hotline. Callers’ identities are protected, and administrators can take immediate action in response to tips.
Giving victims a voice
One such service is the Safe School Helpline, provided to schools nationwide by Security Voice, Inc. Students, parents, staff, and community members can call regarding any threat to student safety, from weapon possession to sexual harassment, vandalism to drug use and cyber bullying. Security Voice also provides a live, 24-7 suicide helpline, which students can use to speak with trained, certified counselors to get the support they need.
The Safe School Helpline serves more than 6,000 schools, representing more than 1 million students across 15 states. It has recently added Internet and text reporting capabilities, and can translate tips provided in any language.
Of course, a system is only as good as those who use it. That’s why One Call Now is offering Security Voice’s Safe School Helpline access to all of our clients for less than $1 per student or employee each year. In doing so, we hope to help break the cycle of silence, not just in our schools, but also in churches, businesses, and other facilities across the country.
We can’t wipe out violence completely—and we can’t predict the future. But when the unthinkable happens, this is a tool communities won’t want to be without. When people have confidence to speak freely, we’re all safer for it.