On September 29, 1995, a fourteen-year old Tavares Middle School student was shot by another student. During the investigation it was determined that several students attending the Lake County school were aware of a conflict between the victim and shooter yet never spoke with school administrators or school resource officers. It was also discovered that several students were aware that the student had brought the gun to school. This incident was the catalyst brought about the development of the SpeakOut Hotline.
The intent of SpeakOut is to provide an anonymous venue for students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and community members to share information. Research shows that in a significant number of violent incidents in U.S. schools, someone other than the attacker knew it was going to happen but failed to report it. Typically, the information goes unreported because of fear of being a 'snitch' or that the attacker will then target the informant, thereby creating a 'code of silence'.
To address this code of silence, SpeakOut was created as a Central Florida anonymous reporting tool available 24 hours a day to accept calls whenever a Central Florida students or concerned adult perceives a threat to their safety or the safety of others. Anonymity is promised. The procedures established by Crimeline, the parent program, guarantee the anonymity of every reporter. When immediate action is necessary, information is forwarded to local school officials and law enforcement agencies, as appropriate.
SpeakOut staff follows up with the school and law enforcement agencies which received the report to ensure that it was investigated, that action was taken and that the outcome was tracked. The assurance that calls cannot be traced and that appropriate action will be taken is helping persuade young people to move away from a code of silence and to take a stand. SpeakOut is empowering young people to keep their community safe.