In 81 per cent of school attacks, at least one person knew that the attacker was planning their crime. Nine times out of ten, the person with prior information was the attacker's peer (a sibling, friend or classmate). If only they had come forward.
When students have a confidential way to report misconduct, you can prevent more incidents of violence, bullying, self-harm, drug and alcohol use and more. Here's why you need to implement a school hotline now.
Hang this school hotline poster in and around the school to remind students, staff and community members to report concerning behavior.
What Can Be Reported?
Encourage students and staff to report anything that could cause harm or that violates school policy or the law. This includes warning signs and threats as well as full-blown incidents. When you communicate the details of your school hotline, include this list of examples:
- Bullying, harassment (including online)
- Drug and alcohol use
- Security risks (e.g. broken lock, hole in a fence, suspicious person in the building)
- Cybersecurity concerns
- Violence and assault
- Possession or use of a weapon or explosive device
Inform students that it's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to hotline tips. It's better to report a mistaken concern than to keep quiet about something that puts others' safety at risk.
Who Can Report?
According to RTI International, "tip lines leverage students' direct knowledge of potential threats or adverse events, which is critical because students are often the best source of such information."
However, they may hesitate to submit a tip because they fear retaliation, they don't want to "snitch" on a friend or they don't know how to access the hotline. For these reasons, make sure your school hotline is easy to use, communicated well and confidential, with the option to remain anonymous.
Additionally, make the hotline available to teachers, staff, parents and the surrounding community. A teacher may overhear students planning an attack when they think they're alone. A parent could see self-harm scars a child hides from their peers. Neighborhood business owners might see students engaging in criminal activity off school grounds. An alumnus checking the football schedule could be the first to notice that the school website has been hacked.
Offer multiple reporting avenues for your hotline, including a phone number, webform and dedicated email address. Ensure they're all easy to find and user-friendly for all ages. If you live in a multi-lingual region, offer reporting options in more than one language.
Spread the word about bullying and how to report it by hanging this anti-bullying poster in the halls.
School Hotline Benefits
Hotline tips help you detect problems before they escalate into bigger safety issues. The faster you address reports, the less risk of tragedy.
Similarly, a school hotline provides data that can help reduce your chances of future incidents. By tracking tip trends, you'll spot areas of risk so you can direct your preventive efforts there. Choose a case management system that integrates with your hotline and has a reporting function to simplify these steps, giving you more time to focus on school safety.
One unexpected benefit of a school hotline is that you can use the data to improve your school policies. What types of incidents are reported most frequently? Focus on those areas of risk when creating safety procedures. You'll also learn which reporting tools students actually use and which ones aren't worth the financial or manpower budget.
If you communicate your hotline well, it may deter students who were planning to misbehave. Knowing how easy it is to submit a report and how severe the consequences are could stop a would-be bully in their tracks.
RTI International mentions that a school hotline also helps "students learn the value of civic engagement, skills in bi-directional information sharing, and a proactive approach to concerns they are facing. These skills can be critical not only to their educational development, but also to the safety of their school community.”
Finally, having a reporting system in place promotes a safe school environment. When the school community takes charge of their safety, there is less fear and uncertainty. Students and staff can focus on the learning process, rather than being distracted by violence, bullying and other issues.
An anonymous hotline with case management software helps you take action on tips right away. Learn more in our free eBook.