App helps students report bullying anonymously

The app has been implemented in Platte County and Park Hill school districts.

Though bullying in schools is nothing new, the way in which students are able to report and conquer incidents of wrongdoing by and to their classmates has seen a number of updates.

App updates, that is.

To supplement regular anti-bullying classes and programs, local middle schools in Platte County and Park Hill school districts have begun utilizing a free, web-based application called “Sprigeo” which allows students to anonymously report incidents of bullying from their mobile phones.

In addition to this mobile application, students at Congress Middle School in the Park Hill School District have also begun utilizing a text-a-tip program, with which students can send anonymous text message reports that are then reviewed by school faculty members, Park Hill School District Communications Director Nicole Kirby said.

Both Congress Middle School and Platte City Middle School of the Platte County School District are nationally-recognized Olweus Bullying Prevention Program schools, meaning that students and faculty have prioritized the reduction of “existing bullying problems among students,” the prevention of the “development of new bullying problems” and the achievement of “better peer relations at school,” as stated in the OBPP Facts Introduction.

According to the OBPP Facts Introduction, Olweus has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a “Level 2” program, indicating that the program has been “scientifically demonstrated to prevent delinquency or reduce risk and enhance protection for delinquency and other child and youth problems.”

Schools utilizing this program have average reductions of 20 to 70 percent in incident reports, “marked reductions” in student reports of truancy, vandalism and theft and “clear improvements” in the social atmosphere in classrooms.

“To be honest with you, we didn’t have a major bullying problem, but with my 15 years working in middle schools, I know there is always stuff going on, whether it be rumors or drama, and we knew that this was something we needed to tackle,” Platte City Middle School Principal Chris Miller said.

Platte City Middle School was the first building in the Platte County School District to implement the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, Miller said. Each year the school surveys its students and receives a report informing them on what is going on at the school.

One of the questions on this survey consistently asks about how students report bullying, and many students said that they normally do not report it at all for various reasons. To correct this, the school chose Sprigeo as a platform for anybody to anonymously report anything that would cause a disruption to a safe and secure learning environment, Miller said.

“As principals and counselors, we know that kids do not want to be viewed as a tattletale, so we continue to try our best to protect them,” Miller said. “With two years of data on Sprigeo, I do think that it empowers kids knowing that they have an easy way to report these incidents.”

The Platte City School District has since expanded Sprigeo to Platte County High School as well, Miller said.

According to the OBPP Facts Introduction, implementation of anti-bullying aides and programs in high school takes some adaptation, and research has not yet measured effectiveness beyond 10th grade.

Utilizing the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and the Sprigeo application, Congress Middle School has also made it their mission to decrease bullying within the school.

“It has been about three years with our Olweus anti-bullying program and it teaches kids what bullying is and what it isn’t, and it teaches them their role in stopping it, even if they are not the bully or the victim,” Kirby said.

Anti-bullying lessons are taught through school-wide assemblies, classroom activities and lectures. Poster contests throughout the year help students learn and recognize the school’s anti-bullying rules, Kirby said.

“The kids have learned about this for so long that it has become almost second-nature to them,” Kirby said.

Despite the turn toward technology and the anonymity that Sprigeo grants students, Miller reported that it is important that kids are still taught to actively stand up for themselves and each other, and to help people that are being wronged.

The school has implemented a reward-based system in which students who recognize bullying and stick up for one another receive a bracelet that says “defender,” one of the roles outlined in the Olweus program, Miller said.

“Over the past few years we have seen a decrease in bullying,” Miller said. “It’s never going to be quite perfect, but we have made strides. We’re pretty proud of what we’ve been able to do so far.”

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