The Entertainment Software Association has donated $200,000 to Speak Up Cumberland County, part of a nationwide hotline that will let kids report an impending school crime without fear of being labeled a snitch.
Cumberland County will become the first in the state of North Carolina to join the Speak Up national hotline, which will let students call or text an 800 number to anonymously turn in fellow students who are planning to commit crimes. Sheriff Moose Butler expressed hope that students will be more inclined to take advantage of this program because nobody will think less of them for ratting out the kid who's bringing an Uzi to school.
"We have encouraged, of course, the students to talk," he said. "But this initiative here, Speak Up, gives us a program where students really can speak up, of course, without having to be openly talking to a law enforcement person."
Callers to the line will have 24 hour access to professional counselors, who will be able to alert school security or sheriff's deputies to potential threats. The tip line "dovetails" with new anti-bullying legislation put into place last year that requires schools to come up with policies to protect students who get pick on, according to State Rep. Rick Glazier. "The biggest threat to schools isn't from someone coming from outside in," he said. "It's from someone boiling over inside."
The ESA Foundation supports numerous organizations ranging from the One Economy Corporation to the Association on American Indian Affairs and had previously donated to PAX, the group behind Speak Up, in 2006 and 2007. Still, it's not too hard to imagine that some commentators will see the contribution as little more than a thinly-veiled admission of the industry's responsibility for the rise of violence in schools. Why pay to clean up the mess, after all, if it didn't have some hand in making it?
The $200,000 grand from the ESA will pay for two years of local advertising for the tip number.