Students given tool to fight school violence

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Staff Writer

Students in Pike County are being given the tool to fight violence in their schools ­ a toll free phone number.

S.A.V.E. (Students Against Violence in Education) is a nonprofit agency implemented to reduce violence in schools.

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Designed after CrimeStoppers, the program will allow a student to report suspicious activity without having to ever give his or her name.

If a student has knowledge of a crime to be committed, possession of drugs or anything else that should not be happening on campus, that individual can call 1-888-283-SAVE (7283) to report that activity.

The hotline will be manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week with individuals who will assign the anonymous caller a tip code and ask the student for a password. That code and password are the only ways a student can claim any reward.

After an incident is reported to school officials, it will be researched and reviewed by S.A.V.E.’s board of directors. If the reported incident results in action being taken against a student, a reward will be offered to the caller. The tip code will be posted in a public place within each school and the caller must, then, see the appropriate authority at the school, use the password and receive money with no questions asked.

District Attorney Mark Fuller said the objective of S.A.V.E. is to "set up a program that works as a resource schools can use to identify potential crimes."

After a year in the planning stages, the program will be unveiled when school opens in August.

"It’s designed to reward students who report crime, drugs and guns on campus," Fuller said.

Statistics indicate juvenile crime is on the rise and it’s common knowledge prisons are overcrowded.

Between 1992 and 1996, the number of prisoners under state and federal jurisdiction in Alabama increased by 4,307.

And, the number of juvenile offenders who return to juvenile or adult court within 24 months averages between 57 percent and 71 percent across the nation.

Looking at those figures and a map pinpointing 17 school shootings that have occurred across the United States, Fuller said something has to be done on a local level before a school in Pike or Coffee County makes national headlines.

"I don’t think we have to reiterate the problems we’ve seen in our country," Fuller said. "I’ll do just about anything to prevent that from happening here."

Knowing it could happen here, too, is what has Fuller, other law enforcement officers and parents like Jeanine Buxton-Roberts concerned.

"It’s better to be proactive to save our biggest asset and treasure ­ our children," Fuller said.

"This isn’t a DA or law enforcement project. We all have an obligation, not only a responsibility, to get involved."

Buxton-Roberts has two small children in school and believes by promoting the hotline, the likelihood of lives being lost in Pike or Coffee Counties is diminished.

After school shootings began making headlines, she went to her school superintendent and voiced concern. He paired her up with Fuller and they went to work creating what is now S.A.V.E.

"I felt it was my duty, as district attorney, to do something," Fuller said.

"We want to be an asset to the school systems and be a tool for them."

S.A.V.E. is being initiated in Pike and Coffee County schools during the 2001-2002 school year.

Although the governor did initiate a statewide hotline, those involved with S.A.V.E. hope having the hotline manned on a more local level will encourage students to call, plus offer more immediate response by school and law enforcement officials.