Archive for Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hotlines provide tipsters venue to report discretions

November 25, 2009

Mill Valley and De Soto high schools are working to make students feel safer at school.

The schools recently made e-mail and voicemail services available for students to anonymously and safely report instances of drug or alcohol abuse, vandalism, contraband and other indiscretions.

While DHS previously had an anonymous e-mail reporting system, MVHS lacked both options.

Now, students can leave untraceable e-mails or voicemails for the school resource officer at their school.

At Mill Valley, school resource officer John Midiros said the idea to expand the tips lines to the high school came after he was approached by parents and community members asking how to report suspicious activity.

“Most people are fearful of being found out when providing information,” Midiros said. “From a proactive view, it’s a new way for students and the community to provide a safer environment that is anonymous.”

At the time, Midiros said he was unaware DHS had an anonymous e-mail reporting system for its students. Then he spoke with Deputy Eddie Blake, the school resource officer at DHS and Lexington Trails Middle School, about the benefits of the system.

It took about three weeks for the district to set up the anonymous e-mail and phone line at MVHS, along with the phone line to DHS, Midiros said.

Blake said the new system is a great resource, since students all have computer and phone access.

Blake said students could still talk to him personally, but if they weren’t comfortable they can leave an anonymous voicemail, e-mail or note in the school’s library.

After the quick turn-around, Midiros made magnets to promote the new resources during parent teacher conferences.

While the anonymous tip lines were first introduced at the high school level, Midiros said students at Mill Creek, Monticello Trails and Lexington Trials also can report issues.

Blake said starting the new phone option at DHS has receive positive feedback, which was a different response to when the e-mail began a few years ago.

“People feel like they might be ratting on someone or might get repercussions if they give information but they are still concerned about the situation,” he said. “I know when we initiated it, I had some negative feedback from parents and students, but in the last few years we haven’t had any negative feedback. It’s all been positive.”

Blake said about half the tips he had received in the past have been from parents, while the other half has come from students.

“I get a lot of e-mails from parents concerning their students and maybe some strange behavior they are seeing or concerns they have,” he said. “Parents can use it too — that’s what it’s intended for. I want to be able to communicate with whomever. With parents’ jobs and schedules, they may not be able to come in and talk.”

Midiros said he has received a handful of tips since the system’s inception at MVHS.

“I’m receiving the tips in a more timely manner,” he said. “Students are more apt to do it (make a tip) in an anonymous way than coming in physically.”

When a tip is made the officers evaluate the merit of the tip and report it to the appropriate entity, be it the school or police department.

Although anonymous tips may be more comforting for students, Blake said tips with contact information tended to be resolved more quickly.

“If we have the contact information, it’s easier to verify that the tip is legitimate,” he said.


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