Online reports: bullying suspicions sent to school districts

Online reports: bullying suspicions sent to school districts

Summary: A new website has been launched in the hope that it will become a popular, anonymous way to report bullying concerns.

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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 website's privacy policy is designed to ensure reports remain anonymous. According to the policy, no personal identifiable information is revealed in either the preliminary reports sent to school districts, or the annual reports that are sent to the Iowa legislature.

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.

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11 comments
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  • Does anyone else...

    see the vast potential for abuse such a site could enable?

    False reporting, email spoofing, demands by the state legislature for personal details so the culprit could be prosecuted...

    And, of course, the IP address logging that goes along with "anonymity".

    Good intention, roads paved with which we are all familiar. Sigh.
    wolf_z
    • Much like police tip lines

      @wolf_z <br>It's certainly possible to subject your enemies to all sorts of unwelcome attention with a well placed tip, but I think the benefits still outweigh the costs and police departments still have to come up with actual evidence before search warrants are issued or suspects are charged. My suspicion is that detectives have learned over the years to distinguish between good faith tips and malicious ones.<br><br>I like the idea of a bullying tip site, but schools need to be careful about how they actually investigate tips. As stated previously, schools have tended to ignore the issue, or (worse) punish the victims for fighting back for generations. It needs to be taken seriously. But students should only be disciplined on the basis of real evidence, not anonymous tips.
      John L. Ries
      • Another problem...

        @John L. Ries

        ...is that this is a *private* company, not a government entity like the police, thus there will be few real protections against the schools abusing it, or the legislature doing so. We all know how restrained schools are when it comes to the civil rights of students. They would *NEVER* abuse such a system. (rolling eyes).

        Once this is in place it will be a gold mine for all kinds of information that probably shouldn't be collected in one place. I worry about toothless safeguards, hackers, politicians, lawyers and other such scum gaining access to it...
        wolf_z
    • Every road to hell is paved with good intentions

      [i]The Des Moines non-profit group that is sponsoring the website launch said that its goal is to ???promote tolerance and nondiscrimination???.[/i]

      Ironically, excessive tolerance is the very thing that is killing this country. Many don't want to see or believe this simple fact, as it sounds so "unchristian." pffft

      @wolf_z
      [i]Good intention, roads paved with which we are all familiar. Sigh.[/i]

      Your read is right IMO. This whole initiative may sound "chipper" on the surface but like so many things is fraught with potential abuse. That's one price tag; the other is that it amounts to but another waste of funds that could be better allocated (prioritized) elsewhere.

      @John L. Ries
      [i]I think the benefits still outweigh the costs and police departments still have to come up with actual evidence before search warrants are issued or suspects are charged.[/i]

      Not true John. Police often must take leaps of faith in deciding what tips to act on. Sometimes they turn out to be dead wrong, as if decided by a coin flip and little more. Full felony traffic stops, involving coordination with SWAT teams, have occurred on little more than a "vendetta" tip from say, a spurned girlfriend "ratting" on her boyfriend anonymously (let's say over alleged drug possession).

      The kicker being, the poor bastard was simply leaving town with nothing more than a roach in his ashtray. :( [*doink*]

      Unfortunately the police have little choice but to act on such things, even if based on zero evidence, as they'd be even further crucified if they chose to do nothing and drugs were indeed being transported across state lines. It's called being caught between a rock and hard place, and the cost of this kind of abuse to the taxpayer can be enormous when viewed in totality.
      klumper
      • So what do you propose?

        @klumper <br>A law only allowing police to investigate complaints from private citizens if accompanied by a signed, public record affidavit?<br><br>And of course, schoolyard bullies like knowing who "finked" on them just as much as their fathers and grandfathers did.<br><br>"Kids will be kids" just doesn't cut it.<br><br>Reply to klumper:<br><br>The accused can be confronted by witnesses *after* the investigation has taken place. As I said in my original post, schools should not discipline students without hard evidence that they've actually done something wrong (just as arrests should not be made without such evidence). But if there's a rational reason to keep an eye on suspected abusers, then teachers and administrators have a duty to the other students to do so.<br><br>Assault, battery, harrassment, and extortion are crimes, even when committed by children against their peers. They should be treated accordingly.

        I said before that I don't think that new laws are necessary to deal with the situation, but the existing laws need to be taken a lot more seriously.
        John L. Ries
      • Well certainly not new and costly legislation or red tape

        @John L. Ries
        [i]A law only allowing police to investigate complaints from private citizens if accompanied by a signed, public record affidavit?[/i]

        The complainant (child or parent) can bring such things up to a school principal or administrator, security officer, a favorite teacher, or head straight to the police if such actions warrant police intervention. All this already exists as is; no new and costly legal scripture need be written.

        [i]And of course, schoolyard bullies like knowing who "finked" on them just as much as their fathers and grandfathers did.[/i]

        Any way you look at it, if and when prosecuted or punished (and other than simple warnings or admonishments), the accused have a right to know who is making the accusation. How can the accused know if (or why) a complainant might be stating such things (or even lying) if you don't know who the accuser is? How do you step around from this?

        [i]"Kids will be kids" just doesn't cut it.[/i]

        I never said or implied bullying behavior was right, simply that it is an aspect of human nature and is one of those things that is too nebulous to legislate effectively (violence, harassment and libel statutes having long been on the books to deal with such things, if meeting the legal criteria).
        klumper
  • Reply to your addendum John

    @John L. Ries
    [i]The accused can be confronted by witnesses *after* the investigation has taken place. [/i]

    Well I certainly agree bullying should be investigated by any appropriate or legally vested party, but not at the expense of new legislation or GOVT related initiatives (as this smacks of leading to if further "teething" is required, relative to the school districts). That's all.

    [i]Assault, battery, harrassment, and extortion are crimes, even when committed by children. They should be treated accordingly.[/i]

    Everything to do so is already in place. One, whether parent or child, simply needs to act on it.
    klumper
    • Re: "Everything to do so..."

      @klumper
      Agreed. But experience has shown that neither school authorities nor police take it all that seriously.
      John L. Ries
      • Matter of priorities, no?

        @John L. Ries <br>[i]Agreed. But experience has shown that neither school authorities nor police take it all that seriously.[/i]<br><br>Nor sometimes the child or parents involved. Which possibly proves my whole argument.

        OTOH, a few karate lessons or self defense course might well do the trick more effectively than anything else. ;)
        klumper
      • Priorities

        @klumper <br>Sounds like your argument is that it should not be taken seriously (the attitude is a large part of why the conduct persists to such a large degree). But unpunished juvenile bullies have a tendency to grow up to become adult bullies who go through life abusing spouses, children, peers, and subordinates until someone stops them. I'd rather have a young former hooligan have his career plans hampered by graduating from a continuation school (instead of a regular high school) after a couple of stints in Juvenile Hall than to allow him to go through life abusing all those he perceives as weaker than himself.
        John L. Ries
      • I may have to reverse my stance (see below)

        @John L. Ries
        [i]Priorities. Sounds like your argument is that it should not be taken seriously...[/i]

        No. Priorities as in pragmatics. Concept amplification. Legal code. Budgetary concerns. Taxpayer nicks.

        If money grew on trees and unending legal scripture could right all wrongs, I'd be all for trying anything. As in, why not? We could then triumphantly call Terra Mater [i]heaven.[/i] But that's not how the real, cause and effect world works.

        There are limits to everything, including controlling human behavior. Doubly so behavior or actions which exceed legal definitions of criminal conduct, imperfect as our body of laws may be. But if it's criminal or excessive, act on it!

        As for reining in those who abuse others perceived to be weaker than themselves, by extension you would probably have 1/4 of the population behind bars then, including 1 out of 2 bosses [conceivably]. Then again... come to think of it ...

        WHY NOT? :D
        klumper