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Senate panel approves bill creating safety tip line for students

Published: Thursday, July 2 2015 6:02 p.m. MDT

Members of the Senate Education Committee voted in favor of a bill Thursday that would set aside 311 as a phone line for students to report unsafe, violent or criminal activities. However, lawmakers expressed that conflicts in the bill would need to be resolved prior to passage on the Senate floor. (Jordan Allred Deseret News, ) Members of the Senate Education Committee voted in favor of a bill Thursday that would set aside 311 as a phone line for students to report unsafe, violent or criminal activities. However, lawmakers expressed that conflicts in the bill would need to be resolved prior to passage on the Senate floor. (Jordan Allred Deseret News, )

SALT LAKE CITY — Students would have a direct, anonymous phone line to report unsafe or violent activities under the terms of a bill that gained committee approval on Thursday.

SB232, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, would set aside the dialing code 311 for the School Safety Tip Line. The tip line would be active 24 hours a day and would immediately connect calling students with a licensed clinical social worker, Thatcher said.

The bill calls for the tip line to be active by the fall of 2015. Thatcher said the delay would allow for the creation of a governing board to oversee the tip line and ensure that call centers are properly staffed and that anonymity is guaranteed.

"If it’s anonymous, more children will call," Thatcher said. "And if more children call then more children get help, and that is the important thing."

But 311 is already known to many as a phone line for non-emergency public safety issues. Corey Norman, deputy mayor of Provo, said city officials have spent "hundreds of thousands" of dollars creating and marketing their 311 system, which has successfully decreased the number of non-emergency calls fielded by 911 operators.

Salt Lake County is currently in the early stages of a similar 311 effort, said Jeremy Keele, director of government relations for the Salt Lake County Mayor's Office. He said county officials are "very supportive of the concept, we just don’t think it should be the number 311."

Thatcher acknowledged the potential conflict with existing 311 services, but he added that those efforts could be easily moved to a different dialing code, such as 211, allowing the Student Safety Tip Line to move forward.

"All of the things that Provo is using 311 for, reporting potholes, paying your water bill, these are good convenient functions that adults use and they can be handled by 211," Thatcher said.

The bill was approved by the committee, but lawmakers expressed that conflicts in the bill would need to be resolved prior to passage on the Senate floor.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com, Twitter: bjaminwood

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