It’s October and students, teachers, and school leaders are finally settling into their daily routine.
Unfortunately for many students, this daily routine includes the persistent threat of bullying.
The latest numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics reveal that one in every five K-12 students reported being bullied during the 2016-2017 school year (the latest time period for which statistics were available).
Of course, in today’s world, bullying doesn’t stop when students leave the walls of a school building.
The NCES data also found nearly 15 percent of students reported being bullied online or via text, a nearly four percentage-point increase from 2015. And, female students were three times as likely to be bullied online than male students.
Today, schools across the country kicked off the annual National Bullying Prevention Month to recognize the pain caused by bullying–and identify strategies for preventing it.
While raising awareness about the threat of bullying is important, school leaders know that preventing bullying is an ongoing effort, one that goes beyond the classroom and the hours school is in session.
Safer, easier reporting
In the face of such trends, school districts across the country are looking for ways to push back against bullying–not just through pledges and school assemblies, but by giving students a voice and practical ways to stand up for each other and themselves.
Across the country, many school districts have launched or developed online reporting tools and other systems that empower students, staff, and parents to lead the charge without fear of retaliation or ridicule.
Tuscaloosa City Schools, Ala.
Tuscaloosa City Schools in Alabama has launched a district-wide training and reporting program to address issues of bullying inside and outside its classrooms.
The HALT, or Harassment Awareness Learning Together, program includes training for school staff on the physical and psychological effects of bullying–and offers ways to prevent it. It also includes an awareness campaign to help parents and students understand how to deal with bullying, be it in an online forum, or in-person.
HALT also features a custom online portal for students, parents, and others to report bullying. Community members have the option to report anonymously and once submitted reports are instantly directed to specific district officials to intervene and investigate.
The School District of Osceola County, Fla.
At the School District of Osceola County, Fla., school leaders sought a better way to give students, parents, and staff a voice in school safety as part of its strategic plan and commitment to improving customer service.
So, they created the Keep Osceola Safe portal, an online space where community members can ask safety questions and report bullying, threats, or acts of violence.
Now, students and others can reach out 24/7 from their favorite device. Just as importantly, they can decide whether to submit anonymously or share their contact information, which Dana Schafer, the district’s public information officer, says helps community members feel comfortable using the tool.
“Even if it’s anonymous, we want community members to say something,” she says. “This really has allowed us to stay in front of—and take proactive measures when—security issues happen.”
Schafer recalls a recent incident in which the district, particularly the safety and security team, was especially grateful to have such a tool in place.
“This past school year, a student made a specific threat of violence to a middle school and a fellow student reported it,” Schafer shares. “Upon investigation by law enforcement, it was determined that the student was in a downward spiral and was in desperate need of mental health help, which was immediately provided.”
Temecula Valley USD, Calif.
When administrators at the Temecula Valley Unified School District in California launched a districtwide technology initiative to encourage students to report abuse, the hope was that the program would help make schools safer. It ended up potentially saving lives—twice. In less than a month.
When a fellow student saw a Facebook post suggesting that a classmate was contemplating suicide, the student used the district’s Report Bullying platform to share their concerns with administrators. Within seconds, Public Information Officer Laura Boss received a Critical Alert to her smartphone. Even though the report came in after regular school hours, Boss was able to immediately contact the district’s school resource team. Within minutes, an existing protocol for notifying the student’s parents was put into action.
“It was a sigh of relief that we had something in place,” says Boss, “that we had an outlet that somebody could use to report something like this.” Days after the first suicide threat was reported, another concern was received. This time, a fellow student reported that one of their classmates had talked seriously about suicide. Again, the alert came in and protocols for urgent parental intervention were immediately followed.
Learn more about how school districts can put systems of reporting in place to tackle bullying.