Catching Bullying in the Web
- By Bridget McCrea
Schools tap new Web-based system of automating student safety management
Administrators at Beavercreek City Schools have always known the value of student safety, but it wasn't until recently that the Ohio-based district moved its system onto the Web in an automated format that allows it to closely monitor issues like bullying, accidents, and bad behavior.
Previously the eight-facility, 7000-student district had been using a telephone-based anonymous reporting line. The system was expensive, according to Megan Gilliland, prevention intervention coordinator, and fell under the knife when a loss of state resources forced school districts to pick up the cost of operating it.
"Right around the same time, our business director was considering an online training program from PublicSchoolWORKs," said Gilliland, who talked to other school districts before deciding to go with the company's automated, Web-based system for managing the tracking and reporting of student safety. "We made a complete shift over to their solution, which essentially met two of our needs: an online training program and a helpline reporting system."
The system proved valuable just last week, when Gilliland said a student who was being victimized by a bully mentioned the incident at school and to his parents, who in turn reported it via the online system. "The principal followed up on the incident the very next day," said Gilliland. The anonymous aspect of the system is particularly beneficial, she added, since "kids sometimes have difficulties reaching out to adults at school."
Beavercreek City Schools is using Cincinnati-based PublicSchoolWORKS' new StudentWatch Suite, an automated, Web-based system for managing the tracking and reporting of student safety, accidents and behavior issues. Designed to reduce school liability while minimizing the workload for administrators and staff, the system's tracking and documentation eliminates the risk of inconsistent staff, school and district-wide student interventions.
The solution allows educators to access reports on student behavior and meet state and federal anti-bullying requirements. Comprising four integrated modules, the suite includes the Student Bullying Reporting System (SBRS), which gives students and parents a 24/7 online and telephone system through which to report bullying incidents, while allowing schools to meet virtually every federal and state bullying requirement. The system automatically emails reports to administrators and tracks consequence resolution. SBRS also provides district-wide and school analytical trend reports to facilitate awareness and prevention initiatives.
The Student Helpline Reporting System (SHRS) is an anytime reporting system that provides students with crisis resources and allows them to report personal and school safety issues either online or via the telephone, while the Student Accident Reporting System (SARS) provides district and school trend reports so that school safety committees can manage accident prevention. Finally, the Student Behavior Management System (SBMS) serves as a school's or district's automatic student behavior referral management, documentation and reporting system.
Developed in reaction to the Columbine shootings, the suite costs the average school district about $5,000 to $10,000, according to Tom Strasburger, PublicSchoolWORKS' vice president, who sees the combination of anonymous reporting and the Web as a viable option for students and parents who need a safe avenue for reporting incidents.
"There will always be 10 people who know what's going on, but how do school districts make sure that at least one of them says something about it?" Strasburger asked. "There's a growing need to pull information from people who are most likely to know and who can provide that information and prevent catastrophe."
The solution doesn't solve all problems associated with incident reporting, said Gilliland, who has had to deal with students who decided to mess around with the system and file false reports about their classmates. "We also had reports come in from students who weren't even enrolled in our district," said Gilliland. Overall, she said the system was a good investment for the school, which can more efficiently keep a finger on the pulse of its student community.
"Not everyone feels comfortable coming forward, and this provides a good avenue for concerned parents and students to be heard in an anonymous way," said Gilliland. "From there, it's our responsibility to handle the situation."
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About the author: Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.