Our view: Telling might save a life
May 13, 2017
The Safe2Tell Colorado program may have averted a tragedy in Steamboat Springs last week
The program, by which students, parents and teachers can anonymously report concerns to school officials and law enforcement, is without a doubt saving lives, and we wholeheartedly support it
A week ago, administrators at Steamboat Springs Middle School may have averted a tragedy.
On May 7, school officials were notified that one of their students had "threatened harm and actions that may or may not have included harm to others," according to a letter sent to parents by the district the following Monday, May 8.
Within moments of receiving the information, deputies with the Routt County Sheriff's Office, who had also been notified, began investigating the alleged threat and, by Sunday evening, had taken the juvenile in question into protective custody to be evaluated by medical professionals at Mind Springs Health.
This was a positive ending to a story that might easily have played out in a very different way, and in thinking about it, we can't help but wonder how much of the needless pain and anguish associated with schoolyard massacres and teen suicide might have been avoided had someone come forward and voiced a concern.
But at the same time, we recognize how hard it is for anyone — particularly a child or teen — to step forward and speak up when they see one of their peers — perhaps even one of their friends — expressing ideations of violence against themselves or others or engaging in risky behavior. No one, after all, wants to be known as a snitch. That's why we support and commend the Safe2Tell Colorado program, the vehicle by which the May 7 incident came to light and the avenue by which the juvenile in question was able to receive the help he or she might need.
Administered under the Colorado Attorney General's Office, Safe2Tell is now required by the Colorado Department of Education in all the state's school districts as part of their safety planning and gives students, parents, friends and teachers the ability to anonymously report "anything that concerns or threatens you, your friends, your family or your community," according to the Safe2Tell website.
According to the Safe2Tell website, in the 2015-16 school year, 5,821 reports were submitted, including 977 reports of suicide threats, 896 reports of bullying, 649 reports of illegal drug use and 242 reports involving planned school attacks. Undoubtedly, many of these reports turned out to be false alarms, and, given the anonymous nature of the program, there is no information regarding their ultimate outcomes. But among 977 reports of suicidal threats in a single year, it is reasonable to infer at least some were valid, and some may have resulted in the saving of a life that was only just getting started.
We don't know the particulars surrounding the May 7 incident at Steamboat Springs Middle School. We don't know what would have happened had the report not been made. Conjecture is about the best we can do.
But, if we've learned nothing else from Columbine High School, Newtown Elementary School, Westside Middle School and scores of other names and places that have become too numerous to list; if we've gleaned nothing else from the 269 adolescent suicide deaths in Colorado between 2008 and 2012, it's this: We can no longer afford to take threats of violence and self-harm lightly, and we can no longer ignore the bullying epidemic sweeping our nation.
As Steamboat Springs Middle School Principal Jerry Buelter said following the May 7 incident, "We don't have a choice. Everything is serious to us."
So we conclude by addressing the youth of Steamboat directly: Reporting a situation that concerns or frightens you is not snitching. In fact, it may be preventing a friend from taking their own life or from making a decision that will forever devastate them and those around them. The bottom line is, if something concerns you, tell someone. It may be nothing … but it may be everything.
Reports can be made by calling 877-542-7233 at any time of the day or night or via the website, safe2tell.org. All reports are anonymous, there is no caller ID, call tracing or call recording, and callers are never asked their names or telephone numbers.