MIDDLESEX COUNTY – National Safe Schools Week, running Oct. 20-26, is dedicated to helping students, teachers, parents and administrators raise awareness of the need to keep schools free from violence by placing the issue at the forefront of the national agenda.
Student involvement is crucial when it comes to creating safer schools. SPEAK UP Middlesex County, a youth violence prevention initiative, is raising awareness of school safety and violence prevention during National Safe Schools Week. SPEAK UP Middlesex County provides a safe and innovative opportunity for students to play an active role in keeping their schools and communities safe. SPEAK UP features an anonymous hotline that students can call to report weapon threats or threats of violence 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by calling 1-866-SPEAK UP or texting the keyword “HERO” to 847411. All reports whether made through the hotline or the text feature are anonymous.
“This initiative gives our students a voice,” said Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios. “It also gives them the means to help protect their friends, schools and communities against violence.”
The campaign features a superhero theme and encourages Middlesex youth to “Be A Secret Superhero” by anonymously reporting weapon and violence threats in their schools and communities. In addition to raising awareness through the schools, the campaign will also utilize local advertising to spread its message. SPEAK UP billboards have been displayed throughout October in select locations, including Smith Street at Central Railroad Station in Perth Amboy, Madison Avenue at Market Street in Perth Amboy, and Jersey Avenue just north of Triangle Road in New Brunswick.
Today, the campaign will begin reaching out to Middlesex youth through local movie theaters, with ads running in the AMC Lowes Theatre in New Brunswick and the AMC Dine-In Theatre in Menlo Park.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1 million high school students across America take a weapon to school each month, and over 1.3 million students are injured or threatened with a weapon each year. In 2011, 6% of New Jersey high school students reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in the last year. An additional 4% of the state’s high school students reported missing at least one day of school every month because they felt unsafe. What’s more, research shows that students often know about acts of weapon-related violence before they occur, but may not tell others because of social pressure or fear of retaliation.
Also as part of National Safe Schools Week, all Middlesex County middle school students will receive an informational SPEAK UP wallet card and locker magnet, with information on the hotline; every classroom will receive a SPEAK UP poster. This effort is part of a larger campaign aimed at empowering students to realize that they have the power to help make their schools and communities safer.
Funding for SPEAK UP Middlesex County is made possible through an appropriation form the U.S. Department of Justice. The grant is being administered locally through the Middlesex County Office of Human Service in partnership with the Center to Prevent Youth Violence (CPYV).
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