Central Ohio schools offer students help through new hotline

Central Ohio schools offer new hotline for students (10TV)
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GAHANNA, Ohio - School districts across Ohio are rolling out a hotline to help open communication between students with mental health or safety concerns and the school district.

Among some local schools are offering parents, students or staff an anonymous number to call if they need help are Westerville Local Schools, South-Western City Schools and Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools.

"I view it as a good tool in our toolbox. Another way students can reach out for help if they need it," said Administrator of School Based Prevention and Counseling Lisa Kelley.

Kelley said since the Parkland shootings, Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools have stressed "see-something, say something". This school year school leaders have also added a non-threatening way to do that: a new hotline.

"I have been in other school districts and I do know that other Central Ohio schools use this hotline also," said Kelley. "With the calls we've responded to I feel we've been able to provide high quality to our students."

Schools Hotline to sound the alarm if a student is struggling or the school is in danger. The state is interested in helping, also. The SaferOH tip line offers to many schools support online, through calls and via texts.

The Ohio Department of Education helped to launch the SaferOH tip line. If schools register, students can reach out and anonymously share information with school officials and law enforcement about threats to student safety involving a threatened mass incident or harm to a single student.

Calls or texts to the 844-SaferOH (844-723-3764) line are answered by analysts in the Ohio Homeland Security's Threat Assessment and Prevention Unit. To request the Ohio Safer Schools tip line within a school district, fill out this registration form.

In some school districts 24-hour monitoring can be not affordable, however, the STOP School Violence Act, signed into law last year, includes grant funding meant to help state and local governments create anonymous reporting apps and tiplines.

Gahanna school leaders say their hotline serves with the intention of safety. They say it also is in place to help anyone in the student body with any mental health concern.

"Just reaching one child would be well worth the investment for sure, the other thing we encourage kids to do is go to trusted adults in their building," said Kelley.

Kelley said the hotline has been used, however, its future use remains unclear.

"We just introduced it recently so it's hard to tell so we don't have the data to say whether or not it's going to be something that's very helpful in the long run or whether it may not give us the results we were hoping for," Kelley said.