The Oklahoma Department of Education confirms they did not renew a contract for a state-wide, school safety hotline, Safe Call in June 2011.
For 12 years, hotline allowed students or parents to report anonymous tips about bullying, threats and school-safety. The program cost the departmentalmost $250,000 dollars and was funded through Title IV funds, which were cut near the same time the decision was made to not renew the program.
According to Dept. of Education Communications Specialist, Tricia Pemberton, the hotline would receive around 600 calls a year. She added many of the calls were then referred back to the department.
In place of the hotline, a prevention specialist now works with districts to provide resources and training for bullying, violence and substance abuse prevention. Pemberton says the specialist’s salary of $39,000 dollars is split between the Dept. of Education and State Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
The Dept. of Education says they route around 4,000 calls ayear to their specialist, related to bullying, violence and substance abuse. Callers have the choice to remain anonymous if they would like.
Some districts are questioning if they were notified the contract for the hotline would be ending.
In response, the Dept. of Education released this statement to FOX23:
We do believe we notified school districts when we opted to notrenew the contract with Safe Call, but the person who would have sent thatcommunication is no longer with the department and we've switched email systemsin the meantime, so I have not yet located that email. We have talked toseveral school district safety coordinators, however, who remember receivingsuch communication. The districts also received communication from Safe Call alertingthem the contract was not renewed and soliciting the districts to continue theservice for themselves. Some districts opted to start their own hotlines.
Bullying laws in Oklahoma require all districts to have a bullying prevention plan in place and monitored.
Tulsa Public School have been using an online tool called TIPS (Threat Assessment Incident Management and Prevention Services) since December 2011. Parents and students can report threats online or by calling 918-746-6868 to alert staff.