School hotline for reporting possible threats

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By Carol A. Clark

A new school safety effort, SPEAK UP New Mexico, has been created by the state to offer students an anonymous tip line to report threats of weapon-related violence and other crimes at their schools and in their communities.

“As lieutenant governor, I am committed to keeping New Mexico’s families safe,” said Diane Denish in a news release. “New Mexico’s citizens are our first line of defense for violence prevention. We want to empower the community to Speak Up. While the focus is preventing gun violence, the anonymous tip line also takes calls to help fight against bullying, vandalism, and crime.”

The hotline is toll-free and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is staffed by professional crisis counselors and completely anonymous.

Los Alamos High School Principal Grace Brown is pleased to hear about the new hotline.

“Anytime we can offer a way for students to alert us to potential problems is a good thing,” she said. “Here at the high school we already have a campus crime stoppers program in which students can call to report to us. We encourage students to even report suspicions and we want them to feel confident that they can remain anonymous.”

Secretary of Education Veronica García stated in the release that New Mexico is taking action to promote school safety.

“This hotline is a valuable tool that can make our schools and communities more secure, and we’re promoting it around the state,” she said.

Students who call the hotline to report weapon-related threats talk to a counselor.

That counselor, after reminding the caller that the call is anonymous, creates a report for school districts and law enforcement. Emergency calls are directed to 911.

A 2002 study by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education found that in 81 percent of school shootings, at least one person had information about the attacker’s plans or thoughts beforehand.

“Students may feel uncomfortable telling adults about potential violence in schools,” García said. “I want to assure our school communities that this hotline is completely anonymous.”

The Public Education Department is working with the nonprofit PAX/Real Solutions to Gun Violence to promote the program.

Public service announcements have been sent to New Mexico radio and television stations statewide, and several 1-866 SPEAK UP billboards have been scheduled for production around New Mexico.

In addition, New Mexico schools will receive posters and wallet cards promoting the hotline. More information is available at www.speakupnm.org.

LAHS students with information can call Crime Stoppers on campus at 663-2514 or 1-866 SPEAK UP at the state.