Spartan Tip Line Offers Anonymity

Courtesy lchsspartans.net
La Cañada Unified School District launched the Spartan Tip Line largely in response to recent events involving drugs and threats to campus, said Jim Cartnal, executive director of pupil and personnel programs and services.

The “tip line” that district officials promised at a Governing Board meeting last month went live last week and immediately began receiving reports, La Cañada Unified School District administrators said.
“It’s being used,” said Jim Cartnal, the district’s executive director of Pupil and Personnel Programs and Services. “It’s being used somewhat regularly, and in particular with the events leading up to the [walkout] on March 14, it was a venue where various people and students reported concerns related to rumors they heard on social media about possible negative behavior toward the school.”
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said last week that rumors were unsubstantiated, that there was no threat to campus on March 14 and, with additional security on site, the walkout proceeded peacefully.
District officials always are wiser for the input, Cartnal said.
“There has always been kids coming up to teachers with whom they’re close or coming up to counselors and giving them a shout-out,” Cartnal said. “This is just another means to achieve that goal of community and connection. This further empowers the individual, with the choice of anonymity or attribution, to say, ‘Hey, I’m worried about this thing or this behavior.’”
Not everyone on campus is convinced the tip line is good for students, however.
“It’s creating distrust and drawing a line between students,” LCHS senior Jack Weirick said. “I have personal experience with being searched, and I want to see the credibility behind this.
“And,” he added, “I think it’s almost compelling kids not to go to school because they are afraid they will be reported for doing something on campus.”
As of Tuesday, the Spartan Tip Line has produced 52 leads, said Jarrett Gold, principal at LCHS 7/8, where the majority of the tips have been reported.
“I say I’m averaging two to four a day,” he said. “Anything from kids vaping to self-harm to bogus ones, like ‘this kid is spitting on the floor too much.’”
He said students have been informed that they can expect their tips to be acted upon, if warranted, within 24 hours on school days, although so far he’s been able to tackle those he’s received within an hour.
The tip line is being accessed at lchsspartans.net or lchs78.net. For now, it’s available in the “news” section on those sites, though Cartnal anticipates the district’s tech team will create a permanent icon — perhaps depicting a phone — that will link to it.
The “tip line” itself is a Google form that features fill-in fields asking for the reporter’s name (unless he or she wants to remain anonymous), the identity of the individual “causing the problem,” the identity of any victims, a description of the problem as well as where and when the issue is taking place.
Once it’s submitted, Cartnal said, the information is delivered via email to site administrators, who have developed a protocol to ensure no tip falls through the cracks.
In addition to its description that reads, in part: “We have designed this tool for students and parents to report destructive behavior, including bullying, harassment, vandalism, theft, or drug and alcohol use and/or possession …” the site also offers a few legally advised disclaimers, including informing tipsters that information will remain confidential to the extent permissible by law and the California Public Records Act.
Also, it cautions reporters that because of confidentiality laws, they might not be informed of the outcome of investigations.
And it advises anyone in immediate danger to call 911, or, if it’s a matter best suited for law enforcement, to call (800) 222-8477 or to visit lacrimestoppers.org.
Cartnal said LCUSD has studied other districts that have enacted similar services, some of which also were school website-based and others that operated via anonymous texting services.
“Certainly, we’ve been thinking about it for a while,” he said. “Then with the [recent] events in the news, and one of our students being arrested and students going to the hospital for drug-related injuries, we wanted to hasten bringing the anonymous Spartan Tip Line to life to give kids an opportunity break down the barrier of physically reporting, of walking up to me and saying, ‘I think there are people doing something bad.’
“Because that’s tough to do, and what happens is people don’t report. But if you give them an anonymous opportunity, they may be willing to.”
Cartnal said he trusts students to take the tip line seriously and that he has appealed to them to use it, whether it’s to report a potential threat or to share concerns about a friend who might need counseling.
But senior Adam Goodman suggested the tip line might not be good for some students’ mental health.
“I have friends who struggle with depression and who have been treated badly by authorities, and I think they feel less safe to ask for help because of it,” he said, adding that he’s concerned about the effects of calling students struggling with depression out of class and “confronting” them about it.
Cartnal said he hopes the tip line helps members of the school community better care for one another.
“As members of the community, we are its keepers,” Cartnal said he told students. “And when we see things that we know are wrong and we don’t speak up about them, we help perpetuate that wrong or we help condone it.
“The tip line is created with the idea of trying to provide kids who want to have a safe campus that’s free of behaviors that run averse or afoul of their moral code or their sense of right or wrong a place to report so that whatever is happening can stop, or at least be addressed.”

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