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Tips For Tipsters

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The district's effort is not unique; similar reward initiatives are springing up in school systems around the country.

Proponents laud the attempts to involve students in campus safety. In fact, the reasons such "crimestopper'' efforts work, they say, is because they give students a role in making their schools safer. "One of the things the police and the schools have found is that they can't fight school crime themselves,'' says Ronald Stephens of the National School Safety Center. "And students are beginning to realize that if they allow a crime to occur against someone else then they could be the next victims.''

Critics, however, say students are being taught that informing, while morally desirable, can also be profitable. "As educators we should be teaching lessons to last a lifetime,'' says Dave Kennedy, president of the Antelope Valley Teachers Association. "Students should take action as good citizens because it's the moral and ethical thing to do, not because of rewards.''

Some of the most vocal critics of reward programs have been students, who belittle the idea of informing on classmates. For many, the fear of retaliation is greater than the desire to make easy money.

But according to Larry Weida, a Boulder, Colo., police officer who began that city's "Scholastic Crimestoppers'' program 11 years ago, a well-designed effort can allay such fears among students. Since the Boulder program began, there have been no reported acts of violence against a tipster, he says.

To critics who charge that offering money sends the wrong message, Weida points out that less than 6 percent of the reward money is ever picked up. "The students wanted Scholastic Crimestoppers because they felt they were being victims, and no one was listening to them,'' he says. "They wanted help.''

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