It’s been nearly 19 years since two teenagers went on a killing spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999. That same year, the Kansas Legislature appropriated funds to assist the State Department of Education, in cooperation with the Kansas Highway Patrol, in establishing a school safety hotline.
That toll-free telephone number is still available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year to give students, parents and community members the opportunity to report any impending school violence.
The number is 877-626-8203.
Calls are answered by KHP dispatchers, who will get as much information about each situation reported as the caller wishes to relay.
The hotline could be helpful if someone doesn’t have enough information to warrant a call to 911, but if hard evidence exists, 911 is the best bet.
The day before the Parkland, Florida, school shooting last month, Catherine O’Connor read her grandson’s private journal and called 911 to report he was planning his own mass shooting at a Seattle-area high school. Her grandson, 18-year-old Joshua O’Conner, was arrested. Police believe he was plotting to use bombs and guns to get the highest possible body count.
We’ve had many school shootings since (and before) Columbine. We’ve discussed and even tried several remedies — from gun laws to thoughts and prayers and even the Kansas hotline. At this writing, our Legislature is also considering more requirements for schools in regard to their anti-bullying policies.
Suggestions include making schools a “harder target,” by arming teachers, for example. In some ways, Great Bend has made schools a harder target by locking doors. Or maybe we should make schools “softer,” cultivating social and emotional health. Great Bend schools have been working on that, too.
On Thursday, Barton County residents met to discuss the strengths of local health care and the areas that should improve. Several people who attended thought we need better access to mental health care, especially for young people.
It is good that our nation and our communities are taking a hard look at how to address mass murder. It will be difficult to find measures that truly have an effect, as opposed to things that make us feel good. One thing we know is that a telephone can be one of our strongest prevention tools. If you see something, say something. Say it to someone who will listen.