At Warren County R-III School District’s Black Hawk Middle School, about 60 students were disciplined for fighting during the 2011-2012 school year. As of May 2013, only five students had been disciplined for fighting during the 2012-2013 school year. Administrators credit the CyberBully Hotline, an anonymous reporting service created by school communications technology provider SchoolReach, for helping school leaders achieve this 92% drop.
Referring to the 2011-2012 school year, associate principal Shawn Kelsch said, “It’s wasn’t chaos, but it was a wake-up call that we needed to do something.” Mr. Kelsch described some fights as “horseplay taken to an extreme level” – pushing and shoving that got out of hand – and said others were “incidents that were of a harassment or bullying nature.”
Administrators at the Warrenton, MO school implemented a CyberBully Hotline program at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year to help deal with these kinds of concerns. The program consists of school-specific hotline numbers that students and parents can text or call to make anonymous reports on bullying, fighting, and other matters. A web-based system sends reports to school administrators as they are received and enables two-way, real time communication – anonymously – between school administrators and students or parents.
Dr. Gregg Klinginsmith, assistant superintendent, notes that the program works because students feel comfortable making reports. “In school, kids have access to their phones during passing times and at lunch, and they love using them," said Dr. Klinginsmith. "The Black Hawk administration told kids that no one knows whether they're texting the CyberBully Hotline or texting their mom about needing their gym clothes."
Mr. Kelsch said that students use the CyberBully Hotline when they observe arguments. “Kids will tell us, ‘We heard these kids arguing, and they might be ready to fight,’” he said. “I feel like this allows us to intervene before things escalate to a critical level.”
“I feel like a lot of our big discipline things have been averted thanks to the CyberBully Hotline,” Mr. Kelsch continued. “When something big does happen, it’s often the first way we get information about it.”
Notably, fighting and bullying aren’t the only issues that the CyberBully Hotline helps Black Hawk administrators deal with. “When we first got this system, I thought it would help us with bullying,” Mr. Kelsch said. “But, what I’ve found is that it helps us in many other ways, too.” Mr. Kelsch noted that students were making reports about all sorts of issues, including school bus bullying, substance possession, weapons, and more.
The CyberBully Hotline program also integrates well with the district’s other character education and safety efforts. “We have a PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Supports) program, a character camp for middle school students, and we work closely with our school resource officer to nip things in the bud,” said Dr. Klinginsmith. “With the CyberBully Hotline, we’re being proactive instead of reactive in addressing problems.”
SchoolReach, a service of GroupCast, is a national leader in K-12 school notification and communications technology solutions. The CyberBully Hotline program is used by schools and school districts around the country to facilitate anonymous communications within the learning community. Learn more at schoolreach.com, cyberbullyhotline.com, or by dialing 1-800-420-1479.