Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

March 18, 2014
Bullies exposed

District’s online ‘SafeSchools Alert’ system provides effective way for bullies to get caught and disciplined 

Superintendent Scott Rogers has been on the job less than nine months, and so far the Tooele County School District’s top leader has been taking progressive steps on several fronts. One of the most noteworthy is the district’s attempt to tackle the pernicious problem of bullying.

As reported in last Thursday’s story, “School district begins new tip line to prevent bullying,” students, parents and citizens have a new way to share school safety concerns with school officials. And they can do so discreetly, even anonymously.

That new way is a “SafeSchools Alert” button on the district’s website at www.tooeleschools.org. The button is conveniently located on the website’s home page, and it provides users a portal to inform school administrators on safety issues such as bullying, gangs, drugs, suicide and other similar situations. The portal includes four, user-friendly options — text, email, phone or web — through which students, parents and citizens can easily and quickly forward that information to the district.

After the information is received, it is sent to an administrator of the school involved, and to a district official for investigation, monitoring and follow up. The system allows the school’s administrator to anonymously communicate with the tipster for more information if needed. It also generates a report access number that the tipster can use to follow the investigation’s progress, or action taken.

Also located on the SafeSchools Alert button are two videos. The first describes the SafeSchools Alert program, and the second defines what is bullying.

The online SafeSchools Alert incident reporting system was first announced by Rogers last fall to address new state data that indicated a significant rise in local bullying incidents. The system is also a result of the school board’s action last month in which it adopted a new anti-bullying policy that prohibits bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment, hazing and retaliation.

In development for months, the policy’s intent is to legally and effectively discipline the bully, and to reach out, assist and protect the victim. The policy defines bullying as the intentional endangerment of a student or school employee’s physical health or safety, or repeated aggressive behavior that is intended to cause distress over time.

Disciplinary action may include up to suspension or expulsion, and the policy requires that school officials must notify parents if their child is being bullied. A documented investigation is required with every complaint, and direct action is mandated to protect the victim from further bullying, cyber-bullying on social media, harassment, hazing, or retaliation for reporting the abuse.

The new online SafeSchools Alert incident reporting system is a direct result of the new policy, and provides a progressive tool that supports the policy’s good intent. Whether or not the alert system works relies on two things: Time will tell if students, parents and citizens step forward and use it, and time will tell if district officials have the guts to enforce their anti-bullying policy.

Students and parents’ trust in the system won’t come overnight. Such trust may entirely depend on how well the district maintains the integrity of anonymous tips, and that confirmed bullies are stopped. Furthermore, results from the alert system should be openly and routinely reported at school board meetings for public review.

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