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Records show bullying is most commonly reported concern to hotline so far this school year

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Bullying continues to be the number one issue reported to Missouri's anonymous school safety hotline, Courage2Report.

Last month, there were 10 reports of bullying - repeat harassment made to Courage2Report. There were five school shooting threats, and four threats to kill.

Over the past three years, bullying - repeated harassment, has been the number one reported tip. There were 119 reports of this in 2021. There were 84 reports in 2020 and 124 reports in 2019.

The Columbia Public Schools website has resources available to help students report bullying and outlines its policies. The CPS bullying policy defines bullying as "intimidation, unwanted aggressive behavior, or harassment that is repetitive or is substantially likely to be repeated and causes a reasonable student to fear for his or her physical safety or property; that substantially interferes with the educational performance, opportunities or benefits of any student without exception; or that substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the school. Bullying includes, but is not limited to: physical actions, including violence, gestures, theft, or property damage; oral, written, or electronic communication, including name-calling, put-downs, extortion, or threats; or threats of reprisal or retaliation for reporting such acts."

In Columbia Public Schools, anybody found to violate the bullying policy could receive discipline in the form of suspension or expulsion from school and removal from participation in activities. The district prohibits retaliation against a person who reports any act of bullying, and staff sponsors, and volunteers "shall not permit, condone, or tolerate any form of bullying."

The Jefferson City School District defines bullying in the same way as CPS, in accordance with Missouri State law. JC Schools says the first bullying offense includes a principal and student conference, detention, in-school suspension, or 0-180 days out of school suspension or expulsion. A subsequent offense could result in 1-180 days of out-of-school suspension or expulsion.

The Missouri School Violence Hotline started in 2001. In 2019, the hotline changed its name to Courage2ReportMO. Reports also started going through the Missouri Information Analysis Center for 24/7 operation, according to MSHP.

According to the website, people can use the hotline to report a variety of different threats. This includes any threat to life that happens on school property or on the school bus. This could include the following:

  • Assault- Physical
  • Sexual Offense
  • Weapons
  • Human Trafficking
  • Planned School Attacks
  • School Shooting
  • Planned Suicide
  • Terrorism Threat-Extremist

Columbia based lawyer, Bill Tackett, said in most cases, "school districts handle these things internally." However, in certain cases, law enforcement could be brought in if "you're attempting to cause physical or emotional distress, and you, in fact, cause it, that's actually a Class E felony in the adult world." Tackett says if law enforcement is brought in to address the issue, the matter will be turned over to the juvenile courts, if the person is an adult, they could receive up to a Class E felony.

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Marina Diaz

Marina is a Multimedia Journalist for ABC 17 News, she is originally from Denver, Colorado. She went to Missouri Valley College where she played lacrosse and basketball, and anchored her school’s newscast.

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