Students in the Cape Gir-ardeau area have been able to use CrimeStoppers to report crime or violence at their schools for years. Thanks to a new federal grant, all Missouri students, parents and teachers can now make a single call to report school violence.
Gov. Bob Holden announced Monday that a toll-free hot line has been established so reports of violence -- including threats, intimidation and fights -- can be reported and responded to quickly.
Holden said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks combined with previous acts of school violence across the nation require special efforts to ensure that children feel safe.
"In recent years, too many tragic incidents at schools have taken their toll on America's children," Holden said. "Now, with the terrorist attacks, all of us are searching for a feeling of safety. Today, we are taking a step to help protect Missouri's children from violence in their schools."
The hot line will be paid for through a $500,000 grant. It is a joint effort of the Missouri departments of Public Safety, Social Services, and Elementary and Secondary Education.
"As we make efforts to protect all citizens, we must continue to focus our attention on our children," Holden said. "We must ensure that they are safe in their schools from all sources of potential harm."
Kent King, state commissioner of education, said the hot line will give local school districts the opportunity to work closely with law enforcement.
"The events of Sept. 11 point out that schools have a major responsibility in teaching kids more things than the three Rs," King said. "Safety is an awfully important piece of that."
Cathy Martin, director of the Department of Social Services, said the hot line will compliment current response services provided by law enforcement and state agencies.
Martin also said those staffing the hot lines will have special knowledge to deal with school violence.
Officials said the hot line concept was a result of public hearings held the past few years on the issues of school violence.
In 1999, a 50-page Governor's Task Force on School Violence report made broad recommendations designed to prevent incidences of school violence in Missouri's more than 2,000 public schools.
Last year, lawmakers passed legislation that expands the ban on weapons in schools to include the entire campus, including playgrounds and activity facilities.
The hot line phone number is 1 (866) 748-7047. It will be staffed from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. The local CrimeStoppers phone number is 332-0500 and is available 24 hours a day. Both hot lines allow callers to remain anonymous.