Schools have response plans for almost any emergency, but many don't have an anonymous tip line that might help prevent a fight, assault or something worse.
Representatives of five school districts in Cheektowaga learned about such a service during a joint meeting Monday night in the Maryvale administration building.
"If we don't know about it in advance, we can't prevent it," David R. Connors told school board members and superintendents from Cleveland Hill, Depew, Maryvale, Cheektowaga Central and Cheektowaga Sloan.
A retired Town of Greece police sergeant, Connors was head of security for Greece public schools and now works for Security Voice, a Columbus, Ohio, company that operates the tip line.
He said the Safe School Helpline satisfies criteria he applied when he headed school security. It operates 24 hours a day, which he said is helpful because most calls come in after school. Since it is run by a firm outside the school district, calls remain confidential.
"The whole idea is to get the information from the people who know, the kids, to the people who need to know," he said.
"The kids always know something, and they're always willing to talk," said Brian J. Gould, president of the Cheektowaga Central School Board, a Cheektowaga police officer and liaison officer in Sloan schools. "They're just not always willing to talk to a police officer in the school."
Each person who calls the tip line gets a case number and can call back in three days to find out if the school followed up on the information.
The call is transcribed at the call center, and the transcript is sent to the school. If the message contains information that needs immediate attention, a contact person at the school is called.
The service costs 96 cents a year for each student in kindergarten through 12th grade, or $1.80 per student if used only at the middle and high school levels.
Members of the various boards made no decisions Monday night but indicated their individual boards would discuss the service.