Web sites, CDs attempt to curb school violence
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Nov 05, 2000
Some state and local government agencies are involving technology in less
direct ways with the idea of making schools and communities safer.
Georgia and Virginia have created Web sites for parents, students and
other community members to anonymously report tips about potential threats
in schools. People go to the site, type in a school's name, district, city
and/or county, and then report the anticipated incident, people involved,
and information that could be useful to authorities. Georgia's School Safety
Zone site (www.ganet.org/inthezone), launched in August and managed by the
Georgia Emergency Management Agency, has had about 650 hits since September,
according to Vicki Metz, spokeswoman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
She said tips are usually reviewed by the agency and then sent to one of
the regional offices, which in turn asks the local sheriff's department
Metz said it was too early to tell whether the site was making a difference.
She said parents of middle and high school students send tips usually about
bullying and concerns about drug use.
In Broward County, Fla., the sheriff's office equipped its 1,300-member
force with compact discs containing detailed floor plans, aerial photos
and interior shots of the 61 local schools. Agency officials said using
the CD would cut planning and response time by hours. Broward deputies can
use the CDs on laptops in their patrol cars.
Other organizations, such as the National Education Association, a nonprofit
public education advocacy group, are tapping technology in yet other ways
to improve safety.
NEA has a program called Safe Schools Now Network, (www.nea.org/issues/safescho/echostar/safeschools/
index.html), which is broadcast to more than 6,000 schools. The topics include
recognizing warning signs of potential violence, promoting responsible
and respectful behavior, building a comprehensive safe school culture and
teaching methods of peer mediation and conflict resolution.
Programming is geared toward school administrators, counselors, parents,
law-enforcement officials and other leading community members, but students
have also watched the programs.
Jerry Newberry, director of the NEA's Health Information Network, which
oversees the project, said EchoStar Communications Corp., a Littleton-based
broadcast satellite company, subsidizes the program because many of the
EchoStar employees had sons or daughters at Columbine. After the tragedy,
they wanted to do something to keep such violence from happening again.
EchoStar donated 1,000 satellite dishes to schools nationwide so they
would have access to the NEA's nine-part film series about school safety.
It began airing last January and runs through March 2001. "Reason for Hope,"
the first installment, focused on the Columbine tragedy.
After each show, the NEA's Web site offers downloadable discussion guides
and resources for the various topics. Newberry said when the program ends,
the organization will create several 15-minute videotapes on the most salient
topics from the series for affiliates and schools to use.
"We were finding that a lot of schools didn't know what to do about
setting up school safety programs," Newberry said.