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By DAVE HINTON
Rantoul Press editor
It didn’t take long for a new tips site for Rantoul Township High School to pay off.
The same day that it went online.
The tips location on the myrantoul.com site was established Jan. 22. That evening a tip came in about a fight involving two RTHS students.
Kurtis Buckley, RTHS school resource officer, said the new site is a means of being proactive “to reduce the possibility of violence in the schools.”
“We never predict violence or any type of trouble,” Buckley said, “but we can take strong measures to at least reduce the risks.”
People who go to the site — myrantoul.com/rthstips — will find a form to fill out asking for name and address and other contact information about the tipster and details of what they want to report.
The site stresses that it should not be used in the event of an immediate threat. In that case they should call 9-1-1.
It is for parents, students and community members to report, confidentially, bullying, threats of violence, weapons, drugs and other safety concerns.
Buckley, who is an officer with the Rantoul Police Department, will handle the tips, which go to his cell phone via email. The names of the person giving the tips will remain confidential.
The tip center in many ways is a better method than talking to someone in authority, he said.
“A lot of people don’t want to come to the police or school administrators because a lot of students don’t want to be considered a snitch. They think their friends will make fun of them or it will make things worse for them,” Buckley said.
Many times, if a student or other individual is planning an act of violence, someone else knows about it. Buckley said in school shootings, 90 percent of the time someone else besides the shooter knew of the violence the shooter was planning. An anonymous tip line is one means of letting someone know.
Another attractive aspect of the tips center is there is no cost to the school or the village. There are tips services out there that companies will set up for a fee, but the RTHS center was established at no charge by village IT employees Chris Huston and Jim Brown.
“This is definitely a good idea,” Buckley said. “It’s just an extra tool that doesn’t cost anything and can help prevent violence. The main thing, building strong rapport with the kids is one of the things we can do to lower the risk of violence in school.”
He credited Superintendent Scott Amerio for his help and said he has given him leeway to do whatever is necessary to maintain a peaceful campus.
Amerio said the biggest benefit in the website is that it will provide another means by which students, parents and members of the community can help keep the school safe.
“The more people that we have providing us information, the better we are going to be at accomplishing that goal,” the superintendent said. “Often times we will get a phone call or email from a parent or somebody outside of the school informing us of a situation that happened, that we need to be aware. This website will give us another way to get that information.”
Buckley, who is in his third year as SRO at the high school, feels a great deal of responsibility for protecting the 780 students and 100 faculty and staff at the school.
“I think about it a lot,” Buckley said. “You see these tragedies happen in other schools. I’m not going to let that happen here.”
If an emergency does happen at the school, RTHS is as ready as it can be. He said the RTHS crisis plan has been rewritten. It involves procedures such as evacuations or lockdowns in case of violence or other emergency.
The fight that Buckley received the tip about involved two teens who were fighting off school grounds. Another student recorded video of the fight with a cell phone, which Buckley was able to view.
Because the fight happened off school grounds, the matter becomes more of a police matter than a school/SRO matter, Buckley said, adding that he still needed to talk with a parent of one of the students to determine how to proceed. A key will be trying to ensure there will be no more fighting between the two students.
Buckley is trying to stay as current as possible on keeping students, parents and others in the community informed about the school and enabling them to remain in touch with him.
To that end, he also uses Twitter and Facebook.
His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/RthsSroBuckley.
His Facebook address is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rantoul-High-School-SRO/151178088229124.
“I chose Twitter because almost every kid in the school has a Twitter account,” Buckley said.
The Facebook account includes news of the school, Rantoul Press articles about RTHS and other information.
“I’m using social media to reach out to parents and kids in a non-threatening way,” Buckley said.