PORTLAND, Ore. — School buildings are shut down all across Oregon as the coronavirus pandemic continues. They are not only a place to learn, but for some a place to feel safe and seek help if needed.
School staff are among the long list of mandatory reporters if they see something alarming such as bullying, abuse or another harmful behavior shown by or reported by a student.
School staff are also a resource or an outlet for students to seek help, but if teachers are out of the classroom and teenagers are left to their devices, who can they turn to? In 2017 after the passing of 2016 HB 4075, SafeOregon was created as a resource for students to seek help in a time of crisis. Tips and calls can be submitted in a variety of ways: call, text, e-mail, mobile app or through the SafeOregon website.
"It's just a place for kids to anonymously go and say, 'Hey, I'm having this problem or my friend's having this problem, but I don't want to talk about it and they don't want me to talk about because it's a secret and I don't want to burn their trust,' but they need to get an adult to help them out," said Captain Tim Fox with the Oregon State Police.
OSP manages the tip line, which serves as a conduit for anonymous and confidential tips provided by students and community members, and follow-up is completed at the local level.
SafeOregon partners with Lines For Life division YouthLine. It's a free, confidential teen-to-teen crisis and help line where teens can speak anonymously and confidentially with another teen from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
With teachers and students out of school, some kids are missing that interaction and Fox says calls about suicidal thoughts and cyber-bullying have increased by about 10 percent.
"We really do encourage kids to reach out for help. It's a strange time for everyone, none of us have been through this in our lives, social isolation. So if you have a problem, any of those things. Reach out to SafeOregon and we'll get you the help that you need," Fox said.
With more students staying home, that also means some are in danger of child abuse. As a mandatory reporter and away from students, teachers aren't able to immediately notice signs of abuse and report them, instead others are stepping up.
"Friends are reporting friends, whether they are sending them through text message or social media or something like that. They're saying hey, whatever the case is and these people are reporting," Fox said. "Kids are doing a great job. They're becoming the mandatory reporters, they're doing the right thing."
If you know someone in need of help, someone is always standing by. Call or text SafeOregon at 844-472-3367.
Lines for Life can be reached at 800-273-8255 or text "273TALK" to 839863.
YouthLine: 877-968-8491 or text "teen2teen" to 839863.