Bob Carpenter isn’t promising that he’ll solve the problems — but if he can’t, he’ll get callers in touch with those who can.
The Collinsville School District 10 security manager wants students, parents and staff to call or text 618-979-6406 with any of their concerns for school and student safety. Those concerns could be in regards to bullying, personal issues, drugs or any other issue that might be weighing on a student or parent. He does not know of any other metro-east schools with a school-run hotline.
Collinsville High School Principal David Snider says Carpenter checks the phone for messages three times a day.
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“He’s always looking at the big picture, in terms of student and staff safety,” Snider said of Carpenter.
Carpenter referenced school violence that made national headlines, including Sandy Hook.
“Somebody else knew about it, they just didn’t tell anyone,” he said.
Collinsville’s Safe and Secure School Hotline has an outgoing message encouraging callers to call 911 in an emergency, but otherwise leave a message about the concern. Callers may leave their contact information, but Carpenter will not call them back if they don’t want to be contacted.
“(Carpenter) is really innovative in coming up with ways to keep students secure in the district,” said Kimberly Collins, public relations liaison for the district. He also designed a coloring page with the hotline’s name and phone number for elementary-aged students.
We’ve pretty much secured the outside of all of our buildings; now I’m trying to keep them safe inside.
Bob Carpenter, Collinsville School District 10 security manager
Carpenter said the Safe and Secure School Hotline wasn’t in response to any specific incident — he says he broke up only about seven physical altercations last year — but rather a progression of safety measures. The school already has controlled movement into and through the schools with doors locked to the outside and a fence between the two buildings, and the high school has monitors throughout the day.
“We’ve pretty much secured the outside of all of our buildings; now I’m trying to keep them safe inside,” Carpenter said.
He said students can still go to “a trusted person” like a teacher or counselor. “But there are some people who don’t trust anyone, but they can text.”
Sometimes children feel better equipped to text, so that they don’t have to talk in front of others, Collins said. They might feel safer texting the hotline if they are with someone using drugs or making plans for violence.
Snider echoed that, saying “it’s just another tool we have to enhance communication.”
Initially, Carpenter was looking at companies that work anti-bullying hotlines but quickly found the cost to be exorbitant and “local knowledge goes a long way.”
“They charge per student... and we have more than 6,000 students,” in grades kindergarten through 12, he said.
“I first went to tech: ‘Is there any way I can get an extra cell phone?’” Carpenter said. He was given a flip phone with talk and text, “probably $10 a month” on the district’s group plan. Collins said the hotline is supported through existing equipment and personnel and is “basically a no-cost” so school board approval wasn’t necessary.
The outgoing message is a man’s voice that students probably won’t recognize, Carpenter said.
“It’s one of the custodians, he’s got a great radio voice and isn’t always telling the kids what to do,” he said. Carpenter thinks students will be more likely to leave a message if they do not recognize the voice of someone like a principal.
He’s waiting for his first call.
At a glance
Call or text Collinsville District Unit 10 at 618-979-6406 over any student safety concerns. Calls will be returned during school hours.