A new website has been launched this month by the Eychaner Foundation, in the hopes that it will become a valuable tool to help tackle the problem of bullying.
ReportbullyingIowa.com takes reports submitted by students, parents and staff, and sends them to an 'appropriate person in your school district'. The information is sent via email and US Postal mail, with an additional copy sent to the email inbox of the one reporting the incident.
By filling in the incident form on the website, you are able to specify the school and its district, the date and type of incident -- for example, student to student or student to staff -- and input information on the complainants.
You are also able to specify what factors the incident was based on, such as age, colour, sex, disabilities or socioeconomic status.
After describing the incident, the reporter is required to input their status, whether student, teacher or parent, contact details and address.
The Des Moines non-profit group that is sponsoring the website launch said that its goal is to 'promote tolerance and nondiscrimination'.
Under Iowa law, school districts are required to report cases of bullying on an annual basis. However, according to the executive director of the Eychaner Foundation Micheal Bowser, more than half of Iowa school districts failed to report any cases last year.
It is highly unlikely that so many school districts have had no incidents of bullying across a year's time span.
Bowser suggested that there are a number of reasons why this is currently the case, however the Eychaner Foundation does not want to blame particular groups. They hope by allowing teachers, students and parents an anonymous outlet, reporting bullying concerns will become easier.
Since the website's launch on December 7, it has received 30 reports from 20 separate counties.
Reporting bullying incidents online is a relatively new concept, although lesser methods like text reporting incidents do exist. It may allow concerned parties, especially students and teachers, to be able to utilize a new tool in the fight against bullying.
However, it may the case that parents are not so inclined to simply rely on online reporting to solve the issue. Speaking to parents concerning the idea, their commentary suggested they preferred direct methods.
The head of a school should be the one to tackle the issue of bullying, and they are not likely to want to rely on online reports. This is potentially because parents cannot necessarily see the steps being taken, or have the assurance of a personal link with those that will attempt to resolve the issue.
Instead, parents would pick up the phone and confront the issue as directly as possible, expecting the school to deal immediately begin tackling the issue.
Iowa's new tool is a valuable one, but there are still measure that must be taken to ensure parents and schools are able to maintain a personal link when these incidents occur.
Allowing a stable, anonymous reporting system to exist deserves praise. However, due to its anonymous nature, it is unlikely that concerned parents will not want to know the steps being taken after the reports are submitted, and therefore may not be the main subscribers to such a tool.