News

Administration sets up hotline number for anonymous student texts

TextaTip

Students can call this number in the event of suspicious activity on campus that can result in the injury of staff and students. Texts are completely anonymous. (UHS)

By ANNIKA SIAL
Staff Writer

The administration has recently launched the program Text-a-Tip to allow students to confidentially report behaviors that make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

Students who have concerns regarding a variety of issues, including abuse, bullying, depression or sexual misconduct, are encouraged to text the secure number (949) 427-1172.

The administration team includes assistant principals Kris Kough, Matthew Pate and Connie Park, principal Kevin Astor and his secretary Ms. Barbara Smith.

All members of the team have full access to the messages sent to the number and are responsible for verifying the reports before investigating further.

This does not include members of the Irvine Police Department (IPD).

The main objective of the program is to enhance safety on campus and to address mental health issues students may be apprehensive about reporting in person.

“Our best defense against everything is you guys — it’s every single person on this campus,” Kough said. “Now, we have a vehicle through which kids and staff, if staff want to, can report things.”

Text-a-Tip has been in the works since late October.

However, with the occurrence of the February 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the administration was compelled to implement the program as soon as possible to prevent such events from conspiring on campus.

“With what happened in Florida, I think it kind of reminded us — hey, we need to get this thing into action and not drag our feet,” Kough said.

The program has elicited a variety of responses and opinions from students.
Some believe that the program is necessary and fully support its effort to minimize dangerous situations by allowing students to have a voice.

“People would probably be more willing to talk if they knew that they didn’t . . . have to come forward alone,” sophomore Pooja Kowshik said. “I suppose [that] if I saw something, I would be more likely to say something.”

Yet, many students claim that they would be hesitant to use the service and doubt its effectiveness to prevent problems.

“It’s a good idea, but I don’t think it would be that effective — people’s first response. . . when they see something weird going on wouldn’t be to call the text-a-tip number,” junior Ash Sial said.

A similar program implemented in Colorado after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School called Safe2Tell received only 7 tips over the first 3 years that the program was in effect.

Numbers only increased after students were guaranteed total anonymity, and extensive programs were introduced to prove the value of reports to students.

In fact, a 2004 report published by both the United States Secret Service and the United States Department of Education found that programs like Text-a-Tip would likely benefit from “identifying and breaking down barriers in the school environment that inadvertently may discourage students from coming forward with this information.”
Other students fear that misuse of Text-a-Tip will lead to false reports resulting in consequences for innocent students.

“People could be framed,” junior Elissa Early said. “There’s no real evidence besides the claim. I just don’t think this would work out especially since it’s run by administrators who have no part in the daily life of students on campus.”

To mitigate this, the administration team plans to verify all claims before proceeding with further investigation.

“Whatever we get, we’ll investigate,” Kough said. “If someone’s just pulling a gag, we’re going to reach out to that student.”

Two false reports were made on the first day the program was active.

Consequences have not yet been determined for the false claims, but the administration team hopes to minimize the number of students affected in the future.

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