Yesterday, my seventeen-year-old daughters, Lora and Ellie, helped sing the "Happy Birthday" song used at Red Robin restaurants to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. And no, I'm not kidding. Suthers was the star attraction at a Monday press event at Chatfield High School intended to boost the anti-bullying program Safe2Tell. But Lora and Ellie, who are Chatfield seniors, wound up playing supporting roles.
The locale wasn't chosen at random. Safe2Tell was launched following the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, but staging the event there might have seemed exploitative. Chatfield, though, is so close to Columbine that students from the latter school finished out the 1999 school year there. Moreover, it's a feeder institution for Deer Creek Middle School, the setting for a February shooting, and a relatively short drive from Platte Canyon High School, where student Emily Keyes was slain in 2006. Keyes's father was among the invited guests at yesterday's gathering.
Chatfield students were on hand, too -- but mainly those from student government, who could be relied upon to treat the session with seriousness. Hence, my daughters' attendance -- Lora's the vice president of Chatfield's student body, while Ellie is a senior alliance representative. They're also freshman mentors, and they'd met Susan Payne, the director of Safe2Tell, during a previous presentation at Chatfield. It was natural, then, that when it came time for the media to chat with students about the issue of bullying on campus, and the necessity of a program to deal with it, they'd be among the first subjects chosen.
They wound up being interviewed by reporters from Fox 31 and the Denver Post, and while neither of them wound up on the editing-room floor, they were surprised by how little material from what they describe as extended conversations made it into the final cut.
In the Post piece, for instance, they're both named, but only one quote and the term "eye-opening" appear in the published article. (Kudos, though, to reporter Kyle Glazier for spelling Lora's name correctly. Even some of her relatives haven't quite figured it out yet -- and she's seventeen.) On Fox, meanwhile, Ellie is heard briefly near the start of the package, while Lora turns up at the end. But neither is identified by an on-screen graphic, perhaps because they're identical twins, and no one could remember which was which.
They were also surprised that the report was narrated by reporter Kim Posey, not the person who chatted with them earlier in the day. Posey set up the piece during last night's 9 p.m. broadcast by way of a live shot from Chatfield's campus, a very attractive facility. So why, Ellie wondered, did the crew set Posey up in front of two dumpsters?
This mystery may never be solved. But in other respects, the event did just what organizers no doubt hoped, focusing attention on a program that seems timelier than ever as a result of recent suicides by gay teens who'd reportedly been bullied. And when Suthers mentioned that yesterday was his birthday, he also got serenaded by a bunch of high school kids. Too bad no one caught that on camera.
Page down to see the Fox 31 report, and to read a release about Safe2Tell from the Colorado Attorney General's office:
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Colorado Attorney General's Office release:
Attorney General announces Safe2Tell program has helped schools, law enforcement protect students
DENVER -- Colorado Attorney General John Suthers unveiled new statistics today from Safe2Tell, a program within the Office of the Attorney General, illustrating how the program has helped school officials and law enforcement intervene in thousands of potentially dangerous and life-threatening situations. Since the 2004-2005 school year, students across Colorado have filed more than 2,700 reports concerning bullying, gangs and other problems through Safe2Tell. These tips and reports have helped local school and law enforcement to intervene and put a halt to problems before they grow and have potentially disastrous consequences.
"Safe2Tell has been a tremendous asset to schools and local law enforcement in the 158 cities and 58 counties where it operates in Colorado," Suthers said. "The success of this program should underline for educators and the public that bullying, harassment and all the other problems facing youth today can be prevented when we give kids the resources to ask for help."
The work of Safe2Tell and the more than 2,782 tips students provided have resulted in:
• 284 school disciplinary actions • 67 arrests • 393 investigations • 344 counseling referrals • 282 prevention and intervention plans • 796 increased monitoring of individuals
Suthers said the annual data underlines that students are using Safe2Tell with increasingly frequency and, thus, are keeping law enforcement and school officials in the loop on issues and incidents they might otherwise not have learned about.
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Suthers and officials from Jeffco Public Schools also announced today that Safe2Text, a pilot program expanding the way students can file tips and reports, has been a resounding success. Safe2Text, a pilot program with Jeffco Public Schools, allows students to file anonymous reports with school officials and law enforcement through an encrypted two-way text message system.
"We've already seen success with this program. We want to provide our students with the tools to empower them," said Jeffco Public Schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson. "As a school district we want to be on the proactive side of violence, bullying or kids in crisis."
Since the start of the pilot program with Jeffco Public Schools, Safe2Text has generated 28 serious tip reports: Seven reports involving drugs, four reports concerning bullying, three reports of suicidal threats, three reports of depression, three reports of sexual misconduct and one each of the following: child abuse, cutting, assault, harassment, discrimination, counseling, overpricing a fundraiser and one report classified as "other."
"The success of our Safe2Text pilot program underlines that when we communicate with students on their own terms, we can make a difference," Suthers said.
* * *
The Office of the Attorney General and Safe2Tell rolled out these statistics and announced the progress of the Safe2Text pilot program with Jeffco Public Schools as part of Safe Schools Week.
Safe2Tell is a program based on the Columbine Commission Report's recommendation that students need a safe and anonymous way to keep lines of communication open between themselves, educators and law enforcement. The commission's report emphasized that tragedies can be prevented if students have a way to tell someone ahead of time without worrying about facing retaliation from their peers.
Students can file a tip or a report with Safe2Tell by calling 1-877-542-7233 or by submitting a tip through the program's Web site, www.safe2tell.org.
More from our Media archive: "Randy Brown on the cancellation of today's Columbine-related Oprah broadcast."