Cloud Program Reduces Bullying
The Dallas Independent School District is using cloud technology to reduce aggressive behavior and bullying. A new district-wide policy on behavior has administrators looking to technology to make sure one of "most comprehensive anti-bullying policies" in the nation is successful.
Educators at the Dallas Independent School District (ISD) are using cloud technology to revolutionize the reduction of aggressive behavior and--they hope--force schoolyard bullies into a "can't run, can't hide" situation.
The implementation of the new Student Welfare Freedom From Bullying policy has put the district in a position of national leadership, according to Suzie Fagg, executive director of student services with the Dallas ISD. That's because the district board of trustees wants to prevent bullying from starting or escalating as much as it wants to see a reduction of current incidents, Fagg said. Adopting one of the "most comprehensive anti-bullying" policies in the nation meant the old methods weren't sufficient, so she turned to cloud computing as a tool to start a revolution.
"To me, being proactive means you've got to have the data," she said.
It begins with reporting
The first step is having consistent and reliable information about what's happening in school buildings, including, where on the campus and how often bullying occurs; students involved as bullies, targets, or bystanders; and classrooms where particularly high or low levels of inappropriate behavior are reported. Enter Review360, created by Psychological Software Solutions. The scalable and customizable anti-bullying components of the behavior software made it possible for Dallas ISD to duplicate its old paper-based incident tracking form in an electronic format, almost immediately streamlining data collection.
"Every teacher, every staff person, will have access to this reporting form online," Fagg said. "The neat thing about the reporting form is that it has a lot of detail. Yet it's very user friendly, because it's click, click, click. There's text space, but everywhere possible we wanted it to be drop-down so that it's easier to collect the data."
Fagg said standard reports identify trends--both positive and negative--making it possible to develop comprehensive behavior profiles, be it of the entire district or even just a single grade level. This is important because becoming a bully or a target is the behavioral manifestation of other problems. She said she sees the anti-bullying effort as a complement to the comprehensive Psychological and Student Services program already in place to address the root causes of aggressive behavior. The district already has 10 Youth and Family Centers in the schools delivering mental health and physical services.
"My vision is that any time one of my staff has contact with a student, we should know that," Fagg said. "If I have a student who threatens suicide or is experiencing some type of emotional distress, I should be able to type in their student ID number and I should know if they were seen at the Family Center."
The universal access to real-time information that cloud computing offers makes it possible to have a collaborative approach to dealing with the whole child in a way that isn't possible when staff members are passing around paper files. If, before lunch, a teacher has a student acting out, he or she can check on the student's recent behavior history before classes begin in the afternoon.
Teacher training in the cloud
Translating that wealth of data into an action plan for anti-bullying will be a challenge if teachers aren't trained to do so. Utilizing traditional teacher training for this would be expensive. The cost of substitute teachers, the salaries of teachers in training, and trainer fees would be unpalatable in a district such as Dallas ISD, where 90 percent of the 157,000 students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Once again, the district turned to Review360 and the cloud.
A comprehensive training program based on best practices related to prevention, as well as de-escalating and responding to bullying is available to teachers electronically via a computer and internet access--tools already in the classroom.
Teachers can participate in online training when they have time. A learning management system incorporated into the program allows an administrator to easily access the progress of each teacher through a proscribed set of modules against a set deadline. That administrator can also check on teachers who report frequent behavior problems to see how they are or aren't using the materials when issues arise.
The online access means teachers have an electronic coach available throughout the year. And as new research, resources, and other tools are developed, they're automatically updated with no downtime.
"It's much less expensive for a district to have us host. IT departments don't have to worry about applying patches and updates on their own," said Stewart Pisecco, a behavioral psychologist and creator of Review360. "We use Rackspace. Security, redundancy, fires walls, data encryption--all are FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)-compliant."
The practical combination of Review360's customizable application, cloud technology, and sound behavioral practices is a revolutionary replacement for failed anti-bullying efforts, according to Fagg.
"What I think we're going to find is the number of suspensions and discipline referrals are going to decrease tremendously," she said. "If you have a classroom [where] you have expectations about treating others with respect, then that takes care of the majority of the bullying."
Margo Pierce is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer.