New Online Tool Helps Students Defend Against Bullying
Hartland Middle School is in first year of implementing Sprigeo for reporting bullying concerns at school.
Fenton has fought bullying through the Trust Theater Ensemble performance of the Bullycide Project and Community Parent's 'Chasing Bullying And Depression' Program. Fenton's Gabe Ford has toured the country speaking of bullying prevention.
Hartland Middle School has taken that anti-bullying message and installed it in the classroom.
Teaching kids to speak out and speak up against bullying tactics is an issue for most parents and school staff. Now, with the help of a new online reporting system, students are encouraged to voice their concerns from the safety of their own computers.
Sprigeo, an online website designed for students to send their bullying concerns through messages to school officials, is in its first year at Hartland Middle School at Ore Creek and gives students a way to report problems without feeling like a "snitch."
Hartland Middle School was first introduced to Sprigeo through a connection teacher Kirk Taylor had with founder and CEO Joe Bruzzese. With a cost of only $200 thanks to corporate sponsors, Hartland became one of the first schools in the state to implement the system. It has become a positive new tool, according to middle school principal Steve Livingway who says that it has helped administrators become aware of potential problems and allows them to address the concerns immediately.
“It really seems to be more proactive,” Livingway said. “Because I think in a normal situation, I doubt we would have heard about those situations unless it exploded or someone really got mad or into a fight. Or it got so bad where they finally decided they were going to come and tell an adult.”
The website, which allows students to report date, times, name of bully and description of what happened, can all be done anonymously, if they choose. Emails are then sent to Livingway, Tony Howerton, the school's vice principal and school counselor Mary Day, alerting them of a new report. They are also the only ones who have access to the reports.
“I wasn’t a fan of the anonymous tip line,” Livingway said. “But since it was only going to be the three of us, we felt comfortable that we could screen out if something was blatantly false or damaging to somebody.”
The three administrators are also committed to dealing with and following up on every tip that is reported, even when it’s done anonymously.
Averaging about one report a day, the middle school has a total of 139 reports so far from Sprigeo since the beginning of the year with reports mainly focusing on teasing, the spreading of rumors and verbal bullying.
A typical concern reported involves verbal bullying such as name calling either on the bus or in the hallway, but also on Facebook as well. Livingway says that if Facebook postings have the potential to spill over and create a disruption in the school, they will step in and alert the parents of the situation.
"To me it would be like, if a fight was happening across the street," he said. "I'm not going to ignore it just because it's not on school property."
Livingway said the school is averaging six to eight a week. “It goes in waves or spurts,” he said." ... some weeks we don’t get any, and sometimes we get six in one day.”
Letters were sent home to parents at the beginning of the year informing them of the new tool according to Howerton, who says that so far, Sprigeo has been successful. Howerton also says that the program is constantly being updated based on user feedback to provide better service and that the school has plans to continue using the program in the future.
“I do feel it's another avenue for these kids," Howerton said. "And I like the fact that it gives us a tip to situations that maybe are just brewing. It's very preventative in that measure. I'd definitely use it again and maybe promote it a bit more then we have or just incorporate it a bit more into the programs that we have."
Used in conjunction with several other tools such as Challenge Day events, the Be the Change program and Heroes in the Hallways which encourages kids to not just be silent bystanders when they witness unfair behavior in school, Livingway says that Sprigeo just adds another "layer" of teaching students the correct way to handle sensitive situations.
For other kids, however, ones who may be unwilling to step forward and report an incident, the online reporting is a simple way for those "silent" students to reach out for help.
"Our kids are pretty good," Livingway said. "We’re lucky that we get to try and be proactive so this is part of a total program that we do."