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Sumner Redstone sponsors anti-bullying text line for L.A. schools

June 18, 2012|By Meg James
  • Sumner Redstone is chairman of Viacom Inc., which includes MTV Networks and Nickelodeon, and CBS Corp.
Sumner Redstone is chairman of Viacom Inc., which includes MTV Networks… (Michael Robinson / Los Angeles…)

An anti-bullying initiative that will enable Los Angeles students to anonymously report threats of violence to school officials via text message is scheduled to be introduced next fall through a charitable donation by media mogul Sumner Redstone.

The 89-year-old Redstone, chairman of Viacom Inc., which includes MTV Networks and Nickelodeon, and CBS Corp., donated $100,000 to the Safe to Talk Fund program, made the announcement Monday.

The money will be used to establish a service called SchoolTipline in schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District. SchoolTipline is a texting platform to allow students to use their cellphones to report threats of violence, threats of suicide, the presence of guns or drugs on campus and other troubling behavior without identifying themselves.

"You can't have a quality education without a safe environment, and that's the whole point of my contribution," Redstone, who lives near Beverly Hills, said in an interview Monday. "This will allow students to report violence, bad behavior and threats of bad behavior, without being identified -- and without fear of retaliation."

Redstone's $100,000 contribution will pay for training students, teachers and other school personnel as well as the technology and texting time, said Fraser Nelson, executive director of the Community Foundation of Utah, which is overseeing the Safe to Talk Fund nationwide.

"There are a lot of kids who want to speak up but they are afraid that they will get hurt too," Nelson said. Text messaging is the communications tool of choice for young people, she said, adding, "It’s another way to have the dialogue" about discouraging bullying.

An estimated 160,000 students skip classes each day out of fear of physical harm, according to data from the National Education Assn.

The Utah group is working in Los Angeles with the Friends of Safe Schools Los Angeles charity. The local organization, FOSSLA, will receive the $100,000 to set up the program within LAUSD.

"That was the amount they asked for. If they find that they need more, I would not hesitate to make an additional contribution," Redstone said, adding that as a young boy growing up near Boston he endured taunting on his way to school. "I know what it's like to be bullied."

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