Multiple studies have suggested that almost half of middle school students — the age group where bullying is most likely to be prevalent — are bullied at school.
Yet, according to a recent study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, bullying goes unreported a whopping 65 percent of the time. Even when the bullying results in personal injury to a student, the study found, it will go unreported 40 percent of the time.
Even as a growing number of states are passing new legislation to mandate stricter punishment for bullying and to develop coordinated strategies for dealing with the issue when it arises in the hallways of America’s public schools, the likelihood of it going unreported makes it difficult for school administrators and educators to act to prevent it.
Research has shown a myriad of reasons why bullying is under-reported, but a not-insignificant factor is the students’ fear of being labeled a rat by their classmates and friends for tipping off teachers or school administrators to bullying.
That’s one of several ways in which the Scott County School System’s new “Text-A-Tip” system can make local schools safer.
Designed to give students an anonymous method of reporting things as serious as bullying or the presence of weapons in the school to things as minor as tobacco use in the school, the system ensures that students do not have to be at risk of being labeled — or threatened — for standing up for what’s right.
After the Independent Herald published a story about the “Text-A-Tip” program to our website last week, a number of parents expressed concern. The chief complaint was that the system would likely be abused; used by students with less than honest intentions to cast suspicion on an innocent student — whether as a prank or otherwise.
It goes without saying that the system will be abused by some students. Kids, as they say, will be kids. In fact, at the very first school assembly announcing the new program — Scott High School, Wednesday afternoon — a student posed a question to project coordinator Brent Shoemaker: will we be in trouble if we report something that isn’t true?
But the precedent for the “Text-A-Tip” system is overwhelmingly positive. In Blount County, a much larger public school system and one that has served as the model for systems looking to implement an anonymous text system, the “Text-A-Tip” program has been implemented for three years, with good results. Administrators there are able to weed out the erroneous reports and investigate the ones that are deemed credible before rushing to conclusion.
These anonymous tip-texting programs have already proven to save lives in other school systems. And, as a community, we should embrace efforts to make our schools safer. That’s why S.T.A.N.D. and the Scott County Sheriff’s Department have not only endorsed the “Text-A-Tip” program but partnered with the school system to make it work.
Shoemaker perhaps said it best last week: “We have cameras in our schools, but there are no better cameras than the two eyes of each student who is in our schools.”