Taking a look at what's going on in Elizabethtown, Pa., from the perspective of one member of Elizabethtown Borough Council.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
High school students can text anonymous tips to cops
Through a program Farnsler set up, an Elizabethtown High School student texted that another student might be suicidal. Upon receiving the text, Farnsler communicated anonymously with the first student and was able to get the name of the second student. He then contacted school officials, who set in motion crisis intervention to help the second student.
Farnsler is a borough police officer assigned to the Elizabethtown Area High School full time for several years. Since working at the school, he told Borough Council earlier this month, he has tried various ways to encourage students to provide tips. They have included a hotline and a "suggestion" box -- but he said he "never once" got a tip through either.
Knowing that teenagers text as a primary way of communciating, Farnsler researched how he could use texting to receive anonymous tips. He found a program that is entirely anonymous, with no way for him to find out who texted him because the servers are located in Canada. That, he said, is key because students don't want want to develop a reputation as a "snitch." All students have to do is text to the number 27637 and include "etown" in the body of the message, and he and several school officials receive a text.
The program cost $1,600 per year. Farnsler approached the Elizabethtown Rotary Club, which is sponsoring the program for this school year.
"It's a great partnership between the school, the police, the borough and the Rotary," he said.
"If we saved that life," Police Chief Jack Mentzer said, referring to the suicide intervention, "this program has already paid for itself a thousand times over."
Farnsler said this is the only program of its type -- completely anonymous texting -- for high school students in Lancaster County.
I echo what my fellow Councilman Tom Shaud told Farnsler: "You've done something to make the borough proud."
Because of ongoing spam passed off as comments, I have instituted a policy of moderating all comments. I will receive an e-mail when you comment and will review to ensure they are appropriate. For the record, this is not an effort to censor anyone except spammers hawking offensive websites and inappropriate and unrelated content. I pledge to post all comments, regardless of whether they are critical of me and my writing or not.
Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)
I think I can speak for all my fellow Rotarians when I say we are happy to be part of this.ReplyDelete
Dan -- Many thanks to the Rotary for making it happen, especially in a year when budgets are extremely tight for local governments.ReplyDelete
Kudos to Officer Farnsler for his efforts from researching to implementing the text tip line. I'm very proud of the collaborative effort between all parties involved! Cost of the program - $1600...Value of the young life saved - Priceless!!ReplyDelete
Most definitely, Deb. It's great to see some forward thinking both from a safety standpoint and from Officer Farnsler and the Rotary Club for finding a way to pay for it.ReplyDelete
It's an awesome thing what Rotarians are doing here in our local communities!ReplyDelete
Yes, Steve, it's great to see community organizations stepping up to help out. Watch the blog for more news on the front soon!ReplyDelete
I am a little confused. A program was set up so that students can text Officer Farnsler at the cost of $1,600.00 a year? So, if your child is being bullied maybe NOW that Officer Farnsler has a cell phone on him he will notice because it comes in the form of a text message? Could the principals carry one too so maybe they will actually notice when a child is being bullied? Maybe they can get text messages from Dr. Phil to tell them how to handle it when a child is bullied because honestly noone seems to know what to do! I really think that anyone who believes this is an "awesome thing" has NOT spent any time in Elizabethtown Area High School recently. It is really sad when your child tells you that they are embarrassed of how the students treat the teachers yet alone their peers!ReplyDelete
This texting program wasn't set up to stop bullying. It was set up so students can anonymously send tips about any kind of crime or suspicious activity or concerns to Officer Farnsler, who can take action and follow up with school authorities as needed. In at least two cases, anonymous texts have helped school official intervene with students who might have been suicidal. That is definitely an "awesome thing."Delete
Don't get me wrong: The frustration you express with how administrators may or may not respond to bullying is real. I get that. That is a larger conversation for you to have with teachers, principals, superintendents and perhaps the school board.
This system was set up for students to send tips about any kind of crime or suspicious activity or concerns and clearly indicates Officer Farnsler acted on a tip of a suicidal individual. The texting program was not set up to stop bullying; however, consider the reason the child was suicidal? How much time and money will be spent from the tax payers to filter out these anonymous tips that may be pranks? How is Officer Farnsler going to know the difference? Is he willing to be responsible for a tip that may or may not be real? Bullying IS the issue in Elizabethtown high school. Bullying IS a crime. When children are pushed into lockers, have food thrown on them, or are pushed down the steps and abused by individuals over the internet and cell phone, and this behavior continues after several meetings, assemblies, etc. with administration, this only proves bullying is a crime. Wake up Elizabethtown, there is a serious problem looming in the high school.Delete
I have several thoughts:Delete
* Yes, bullying is a problem. By no means am I implying that it's not. I think it will always be a problem to some degree until people stand up to bullies (and in many cases, their parents). Standing up to bullies also means reporting their behavior. If my child were being bullied and reported it, but it wasn't addressed to my satisfaction you can bet I'd be on the phone with the principal and/or teachers. If that didn't work, I'd go right up the chain of command to the superintendent. If that didn't work, I'd go to the school board.
* Bully prevention is something that takes more than just "several meetings, assemblies etc." I think it takes the community to say, "We're fed up, and we're not going to tolerate it anymore."
* If Officer Farnsler is overwhelmed with text messages and having to triage them, then I would expect him to talk to the police chief and the principal and come up with a plan on how to make sure it wasn't interfering with his other responsibilities. To date, Borough Council has not received any reports indicating that he is receiving an inordinate number of texts.
* Officer Farnsler is a trained police officer. His job is to use that training to sort fact from fiction, whether it's a text message or someone reporting something to him verbally.
Thank you for your response Mr. McCloud. As you have indicated the text line was set up for reporting tips on crime and suspicious activity yet the premise was because a child was reported as being suicidal. A suicidal child is not committing a crime or being suspicious in the context of the premise. Officer Farnsler acted on that tip because of his humanity, not because it was a crime or 'suspicious.'ReplyDelete
I also agree with your statement: * Bully prevention is something that takes more than just "several meetings, assemblies etc." I think it takes the community to say, "We're fed up, and we're not going to tolerate it anymore." Parents need to be made aware of the steps they can take when bullying occurs when the administration does not address the issue and states the safety of a child in the school cannot be guaranteed.
Is there a weekly police log of incidents and arrests in Elizabethtown? if so where? thank youReplyDelete
For better or worse, there's not a weekly log of incidents and arrests.Delete