SPEAK UP program to Empower Students to Keep Schools Safe

City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn in conjunction with the Department of Education, the New York City Police Department, and PAX, creators of the national violence prevention program, SPEAK UP, announced the launch of an anonymous hotline in New York City public schools, which will encourage students to come forward with knowledge of dangerous activity. This hotline run by PAX and will engage students to take charge and report if they see or know of a violent incident in their school or community. Participating schools will be part of this pilot program that will empower students to improve the safety of their schools and community, as well as provide information that will be used to hone the program for potential expansion. Joining the Speaker Quinn were Police Commissioner Kelly, John Feinblatt, Chief Advisor for to the Mayor for Policy and Strategic Planning, Council Members, PAX Founder Daniel Gross, Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers, Jackie Rowe Adams from Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E, Gloria Cruz from Million Moms March and Principal Seth Litt from Public School 217 in the Bronx.

“School should be a safe haven for students,” said Speaker Quinn. “Too many of our children fear retaliation if they report a violent incident that is about to happen and unfortunately authorities find out when it’s too late and innocent lives are affected. This program will empower students to take school safety into their own hands and anonymously report imminent acts of violence and recognize it’s not snitching, it’s saving a life. I want to thank my Council colleagues, the NYPD, PAX, DOE, Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E and advocates for their unyielding support in keeping our students safe.”

“Getting students involved in reporting guns or other threats to their safety is important. We’ve seen tremendous improvement in school safety over the years. But more efforts are welcome, especially those that succeed in getting students involved. I want to congratulate Speaker Quinn, Chancellor Klein and all those who are involved in the PAX project,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly

“A secure learning environment is the foundation for student success, and this Administration has taken unprecedented steps to ensure that our schools are safe, supportive communities where students can thrive and learn,” said Chancellor Klein. “This new program will build on those achievements by helping students to quickly obtain assistance if they see or are victims of gun violence anywhere in the City. I want to thank Speaker Quinn for her continued leadership in helping to make our schools and our streets safer for New York City’s children.”

“It is inspiring to see such a clear commitment by Speaker Quinn and the City of New York in support of our efforts to prevent gun violence in our schools,” said Daniel Gross, founder of PAX. “Their leadership is matched only by the courage of these students who are demanding safer schools and communities. SPEAK UP NYC will further empower students and help to prevent unnecessary tragedy.”

SPEAK UP NYC features the first-and-only anonymous national hotline for students to report weapon threats, 1-866-SPEAK-UP. Developed in collaboration with leading experts in law enforcement and education, the hotline is supported by a comprehensive youth education and marketing initiative, including powerful public service advertising with tens of millions of dollars in pro-bono support, and extensive collateral materials.

According to a report from the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education, in over 80% of school shootings, the attackers tell other students about their plans beforehand. Additional studies show that when weapons are confiscated in schools, 92% of the time the tip comes from another student.

In only 7 years, the 1-866-SPEAKUP hotline has received over 35,000 calls resulting in the almost certain prevention of hundreds of tragedies.

“We know that in order to learn, New York City’s children need a secure environment,” said John Feinblatt, Chief Advisor to the Mayor for Policy and Strategic Planning. We’ve made tremendous progress in school safety, lowering major crime in schools citywide by more than 43%. The program we’re announcing today will give students a new, safe and anonymous way to keep illegal guns out of our communities, classrooms, and hallways – so they can focus on learning.”

“This is a step forward in the urgent task of protecting our city’s children from harm,” Michael Mulgrew, President, United Federation of Teachers (UFT). “It is a win for the students, parents, teachers, school communities and everyone working to nurture, educate and protect the welfare of kids. I want to thank Speaker Quinn, the City Council and everyone involved in SPEAK UP NYC.”

“Our students need to know they have options when it comes to witnessing or even hearing about criminal acts,” said Public Safety Chair Peter Vallone, Jr. “This program promotes information-sharing, a necessary tool, in a time when our kids are exposed to dangerous messages, such as ‘stop snitching.’”

“I applaud Speaker Christine Quinn for her leadership role in effecting this partnership that will serve to protect our children and strengthen our communities,” said Inez Dickens, Assistant Deputy Majority Leader. “This comprehensive partnership comes not a moment too soon. Our children now have a way to report incidence of violence in their schools and their communities without fear of retaliation. I also want to thank Jackie Rowe Adams of Harlem Mother Saves for her diligent advocacy of projects such as this that comprehensively address issues of violence in particular youth on youth violence and gang violence.”

“Harlem Mothers SAVE would like to commend Speaker Christine Quinn and Daniel Gross of PAX for launching the SPEAK UP Campaign that encourages our youth to speak out against gun violence and illegal weapons,” said Jackie Rowe Adams, Founder of Harlem Mothers SAVE. “This campaign is directly aligned with our belief that “It’s not snitching, it’s saving a life!” when incidents are reported. The Speak Up campaign provides another layer of protection and safety so that our young people can report incidents and information to the authorities without fear of retribution. Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. looks forward to the expanding relationship with PAX and we support Speaker Quinn’s leadership in the war against gun violence in our communities.

Gloria Cruz said, “Million Mom March NYC/Bronx Chapter would like to Thank Council Speaker Quinn for her bravery in taking steps forward to educate our youth and implementing the resources to the schools to prevent gun violence in our communities. “

“I am so proud that Ralph R. McKee Career and Technical High School on Staten Island is taking part in the ‘Speak Up’ program,” said Council Member Debi Rose of Staten Island. “I want to thank Speaker Quinn for her leadership role in nurturing this initiative and working in strong partnership with the Department of Education, NYPD, the Criminal Justice Coordinator, Pax and others. McKee High School’s vision statement is, ‘We believe in the 4Rs: Relationships, relevance, rigor and results.’ The SPEAK UP program will certainly accentuate and help strengthen McKee’s vision. I applaud Principal Sharon Henry for stepping forward to support this new program. In too many cases, acts of violence occur in schools as a result of gang-related activity, bullying, and peer pressure and unforeseen circumstances. I feel that this program, which has an anonymous hot line that students may call to report anyone suspected of having a gun or planning an assault, will encourage our young people to speak up. The final outcome is students attending classes and learning without fear of violence or retaliation from other students.”

“As a proud product of the New York City public school system from elementary to graduate school, I truly understand the important role that a safe learning environment plays in ensuring our youths academic success,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams. “Unfortunately, violence and the threat of violence remains a serious obstacle to many of our future leaders. New York City’s students deserve to feel secure in their school buildings and surrounding communities. It is my hope that the implementation of this pilot program will bring us a step closer to this reality. In congruence with our efforts to encourage students to become more vocal, it is imperative that we focus our energies into developing student lead peer mediation programs. This will foster a stronger sense of community and cultivate a self reliant student movement.”

“An anonymous hotline operated by a non-profit organization will give students the opportunity to speak to someone who is sensitive to their concerns,” said Councilmember Gale A. Brewer. “When the hotline is publicized, and the operators listen carefully and maintain privacy, and students talk positively about the service in hallways and classrooms, violence can be prevented and schools will be safer. Then more learning can take place. Any additional support for students is also a positive step for teachers, administrators and parents.”

“We volunteered for this program because we want our students to have the tools in the event they hear of or know of potential threats anywhere in the City,” Bronx PS 217 Principal Seth Litt said. “Our school provides a safe, educational environment, and we want our students to feel safe anywhere in the City. This hotline can help them.”

About PAX

PAX was founded in 1998 to bring new and effective solutions to the problem of gun violence in America-a public health crisis that claims the lives of 8 children everyday. PAZ has since grown into the largest non-partisan gun violence prevention organization in the nation. More importantly, PAX’s work provides parents, children and others everywhere with simple solutions to make their homes, families, and communities safer-solutions that are literally saving children’s lives everyday. To learn more about PAX please visit: www.paxusa.org