SPEAK UP is a groundbreaking initiative, launched in 2002 by The Center to Prevent Youth Violence, dedicated to empowering students to take a lead role in preventing violence in their schools and communities.
SPEAK UP is the nation's first and only hotline for students to safely and anonymously report weapon threats and threats of violence. It was created in collaboration with leading education and law enforcement experts, and has been implemented in school districts and communities across the country. Since the hotline launched nationally, it has received nearly 40,000 calls.
SPEAK UP was inspired by the U.S. Secret Service's "Safe Schools Initiative," which found in 4 out of 5 school shootings, at least one other person had knowledge of the attacker's plan but failed to report it. Our goal is to remove the barriers that prevent students from sharing potentially life-saving information and give them both the motivation and mechanism to "SPEAK UP" against violence.
Schools are meant to be safe havens for students to learn, grow and achieve. Yet, for far too many of our nation's school children, violence and the threat of violence pose serious risks to students' overall health and wellbeing, as well as their educational outcomes.
Sadly, school shootings have now become a matter of routine in this country. And the recent rash of incidents suggests the problem could actually be worsening. The mere mention of school violence conjures up images of these tragic and much-publicized events; but school shootings account for only a fraction of the violence that plagues schools today.
A new study has revealed that assaults at school land over 90,000 kids in the emergency room every year. What's more, about one in ten students admit to having been in a physical fight on school grounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Weapons in school are also a top security concern, with more than 800,000 high school students saying they carried a weapon on school property at least once in the month preceding the survey. An additional 7% reported being injured or threatened with a weapon at school in the last year. Not surprisingly, students who do not feel safe at school stay home – missing out on important opportunities for learning.
The good news is that school violence can be prevented. A landmark 2002 study by the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education found in 81% of school shootings, at least one other person had prior knowledge of the attack. In two-thirds of cases, more than one person was told of the shooters' plans, many of them friends, classmates, or siblings. Yet, because students don't want to be labeled a "snitch" or are fearful of retaliation, many threats go unreported.
Clearly, students have an important role to play in efforts to prevent school violence. But, key to this is removing the barriers that prevent students from sharing potentially life-saving information.
We believe that students can make a difference in preventing violence. In fact, we believe that the only way to break the silence that surrounds violence in our schools and communities is to give students a voice. Yet, when violence is pervasive, youth often feel powerless to stop it. That's why we are committed to not only encouraging young people to "SPEAK UP" against violence, but also giving them the tools to make their voices heard.
SPEAK UP empowers students with an unprecedented resource for preventing violence in their schools and communities. Students can safely and anonymously report suspected threats 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1-866-SPEAK-UP. The hotline is staffed by trained counselors who handle the threat reports according to a protocol developed in collaboration with leading experts in law enforcement and education.
Although the hotline provides the mechanism through which students can report potentially life-saving information, it is critical that we also provide the motivation for them to do so. Our comprehensive public awareness campaign works to combat destructive social norms, such as the pervasive "stop snitchin" culture. The campaigns send the powerful message that students can and should "SPEAK UP" against violence.