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'Anonymous tip' program under fire

Posted By David M. Bresnahan On 03/30/2000 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

A new public school non-violence program that trains students to call an anonymous tip line to report potentially violent classmates is ominously reminiscent of the Hitler Youth program, according to one parent who has assumed an activist role.

WAVE (Working Against Violence Everywhere) America is a new program that provides public schools with a turnkey system for educating students about the warning signs of potentially violent classmates, and also offers a toll-free number where anonymous tips can be called in based on those warning signs, according to company spokeswoman Tamara Park.

The goal of WAVE America, according the company’s website, is “to give students, teachers, parents/guardians and other members of communities across America valuable tools to make their schools safer while promoting a message of personal and ethical responsibility.”

The program, created by corporate security giant Pinkerton Services Group, is made available to public middle and high schools at no cost, and funding is obtained through corporate sponsorships, said Park. North Carolina was the first state to embrace WAVE America last month, and Park says it will be used as a pilot program to expand to every state in the nation.

“We do want to expand state by state. We’ve been contacted by some people from Detroit. Some people from Savannah just contacted us last week. We’re still looking at what that’s going to look like in terms of national expansion,” explained Park.

Pinkerton has created and implemented similar programs for more than 800 corporate clients representing over six million employees in 75,000 locations around the world, according to Park. She said Pinkerton hopes to use its experience with corporate security to help provide greater security in public schools.

Although she acknowledges concerns are being voiced about the program, Park characterized critics as “part of the fringe.”

One critic is Pinebluff, North Carolina resident and parent Dave Komenas, who says the WAVE program strongly resembles the Hitler Youth program, in which young people were instructed to spy on their neighbors and even their own families. Komenas started an online petition to stop the WAVE America program and has been interviewed on local radio stations about his campaign.

The WAVE program, and the similar SAVE (Stop All Violence Everywhere) program, not only teach children to spy on each other, said Komenas, they also provide participants with a uniform through the merchandising of t-shirts and hats. SAVE currently offers t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, tote bags, bumper stickers, pencils, stickers, buttons, book covers, license plates and banners, and WAVE plans to offer similar items, according to Parks.

WAVE evolved from the SAVE program, one of its sponsors, and both originated at North Carolina State University.

The WAVE Card provides a toll-free tip line on one side and discounts at local vendors on the other.

“The incredible WAVE Card is going to make your life very fun. Here’s what we have planned — coming soon,” says promotional information on the WAVE America website. “We are going to get your favorite restaurants, clothing stores, computer places and other fantastic retailers to give you discounts and free stuff. Yes, I’m sure it is hard to contain the absolute excitement you are feeling right now upon learning about the benefits of the WAVE Card.”

To promote frequent visits to the WAVE America website, Pinkerton has included free e-mail for all students.

“We are working hard to get you the stuff you really want. So be sure to visit our website on a regular basis (lots and lots of times) to check out what great deals and free stuff the WAVE Card is going to get you,” students are told. “In the near future, you will simply click the WAVE Card and you’ll discover how much the WAVE Card is worth to you (big money, big money). Remember, we’re going to be constantly updating the WAVE Card offerings, so did we mention that you will want to visit us lots and lots of times.”

The WAVE card is not needed, argues Komenas. If a student knows about another student who is violent or who has a weapon in school, there is already a mechanism by which the student can inform school officials or call 9-1-1, he adds.

“We don’t need to go through a corporation-type security company. And let’s not be offering kids rewards and little gifts and stuff like that, and carrying cards around that have discounts on them,” says Komenas.

Despite the cautions offered on WAVE instruction materials, adds Komenas, he fears some school children will use the program to cause trouble for innocent people.

“With so many no-knock searches going on, what could this do to society? Some kid gets mad and calls in his WAVE line and says, ‘Hey, Tommy’s parents have got all kinds of guns, and firearms, explosives, and drugs in their house.’ You know, just as a prank. Somewhere where the cops think they’re like Rambo, and they go kicking the door in, in the middle of the night, and somebody ends up getting hurt.”

Students are instructed to “Call the WAVE Line at 1.888.960.9600 if you want to anonymously report. …”

  • Threats of Violence

  • Aggressive Behavior

  • Weapons on Campus

  • Drugs or Alcohol on Campus

  • Harassment

  • Vandalism

  • Suicide Threats

  • Intensely Prejudiced or Intolerant Attitudes

  • Anything Else Harmful to You or Your School

Park points out information in the WAVE materials that explains to students the need to use the tip line in a responsible way.

“The WAVE Line is strictly for reporting concerns. Threats made to the WAVE Line (both by phone or e-mail) are considered a federal offense,” the students are warned.

But does a student’s comment in the hall that he disagrees with homosexuality constitute “harassment” or “intensely prejudiced or intolerant attitudes”? Critics say that in today’s “politically correct” society it would, and that programs like WAVE that invite anonymous condemnation of peers will lead to a chilling environment of mistrust, increased polarization and the victimization of innocent students who speak their mind.

‘I’m on their list’
Komenas has previously posted his website with two different companies, and each time it has been shut down without explanation. He said he has not been contacted directly by the hosting companies about why his site has been shut down.

Asked if he blamed Pinkerton, he said, “I’m sure that I’m on their list. I’ve caused quite a bit of a deal about this.”

Similar programs are popping up in other areas of the country. Schools in St. John’s County, Florida recently held a contest for students to design a poster containing a toll-free tip line similar to the one offered by WAVE America.

That program encourages students at all grade levels to report problems with other students and does provide rewards for the tips through the Crimestoppers program.

Police officers who work in public schools in North Carolina are called School Resource Officers. Once such officer, SRO Wingler, posted a message on the Center for the Prevention of School Violence forum which caused concern for some parents.

“We are trying to initiate some sort of reward program for students who give info on all sorts of crimes. We have talked it over and are currently trying to decide on a monetary value. Hopefully, some of you out there who already have this in place can lead me in the right direction,” said Wingler.

Parks said WAVE does not and will not offer rewards, but individual schools may do so on their own.

Komenas has written letters to both his U.S. senators and representative asked for an investigation into his claims. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. wrote back and confirmed that he will investigate Komenas’ concerns. Similarly, Rep. Howard Cobel, R-N.C. wrote, “We are currently looking into your claims about the program being similar in characteristics to the youth program implemented by Adolf Hitler. We have requested more information regarding the program.”

Gov. James Hunt, D-N.C., is the driving force behind both WAVE and SAVE. Both were begun at the Center for the Prevention of School Violence, organized by Hunt.

Hunt recently spoke to more than 900 students dressed in WAVE t-shirts at the Ligon Middle School to start the WAVE America program in North Carolina. Safety in public schools is critical, he said.

“Every school ought to be a safe one and WAVE America will help get every kid involved. This program is more than just a tip line, it teaches students and parents to look for the early signs of violent behavior and to resolve conflicts constructively,” Hunt said.

Hunt says that since 1993-94 the rate of school violence has dropped 19 percent and the number of guns brought to school is down 65 percent. Since 1995, the number of juveniles arrested for murder is down 28 percent.

Hunt takes much of the credit for both SAVE and WAVE and said he expects his state will be a model for the rest of the country.

Providing incentives
All students, parents, and teachers in a school using the WAVE program receive a plastic card, which includes the toll-free tip line number. On the reverse side is a list of corporate sponsors that offer students discounts, two-for-one specials and other incentives to come to their place of business. Such incentives make sure that students, parents, and teachers all value the card and keep it with them, according to Parks.

WAVE tells potential sponsors the program offers a way to “significantly impact the safety and success of our nation’s youth while gaining expansive marketing exposure in the process.”

A press release about the WAVE Card encourages students to ask their school to begin the WAVE program so they can get the benefits of the discounts on the WAVE Card.

“The WAVE Card can be yours for free, if your school signs up for the WAVE Program,” says promotion information from the WAVE website.

Pinkerton stands to benefit financially by having corporate sponsors pay for their fees. And a much smaller North Carolina company stands to gain financially from the WAVE program through the merchandising of all the various products involved.

Textile Printing, Inc. has been contracted to provide all printed materials for WAVE, including the cards with the toll-free numbers and discounts on the back. The company has provided the various merchandise for the SAVE chapters for over two years. When WorldNetDaily contacted Dale Dixon of Textile Printing, he declined to answer any questions and hung up.

According to Internet records, the WAVE America website is registered to Franklin Rierson, and the administrator of the site is Pinkerton Services Group.

Pinkerton Services Group is an international security company, which is a subsidiary of Securitas AB of Sweden. Pinkerton offers guard services, alarms, cash transit protection, background checks, drug screening, job applicant screening and interviews, and makes job hiring decisions for some clients.

Pinkerton offers clients brochures, posters, comic books, newsletters, merchandise, games, and other items. About 900 of the first students in the WAVE America program received free t-shirts to wear. In the future, students will have to buy hats, tee-shirts and other items that are part of the program, according to Park.

WAVE has been embraced by North Carolina schools and has been up and running for several weeks. Parks says a few calls have already been received on the toll-free tip line from students and parents. The most common concern that has been phoned in, she said, has been about bullies who incessantly torment particular students.

“Calling the tip line should be a last resort,” Park told WND. Students are taught they should first talk to a parent or guardian, a school counselor, coach, clergy, or some other trusted adult before turning to the tip line.

Park said that all tips are referred to the appropriate school or law enforcement official. Identifying information about the caller who made the tip is left out of the message given to officials to maintain anonymity.


Previous stories:

Spying 101

Computer to identify violence-prone students


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