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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 and Community Parent's '' Program. Fenton's .

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  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." 

Jason Alexander March 21, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Do you think this tool should be implemented in more schools?
Terri White March 22, 2012 at 12:09 AM
I am slightly torn on this. I think it is great to have a reporting system in place for bullying behavior. Without an "open door policy" on reporting bullying, educators and parents who may not be aware of it happening cannot fix it, and providing another outlet for students to do so is always good. However, conflicts in life are rarely fixed by sending an email, and children do need some confrontational circumstances. If they never learn how to stand up for themselves in person or do the right thing face to face in school, do we really want them learning on the job afterwards? How does it really prepare them for life beyond school?
joe bruzzese March 22, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Thanks for the comment Terri and Jason. Over the past year since we launched Sprigeo, schools in 18 states have become active subscribers, receiving an average of 1 report per school site per day. School principals have shared that having Sprigeo provides their students with a safe medium to talk about bullying and school violence without the fear of retaliation, often as a preliminary step to stopping violence in the moment. As kids become more confident in their ability to make a difference they begin taking action in person in addition to how they are responding online. All too often we still hear about workplace bullying among adults and employees who do not report these incidents to management. Sprigeo begins to break this ongoing cycle of harassment by providing a safe medium for reporting. Thanks again for your comment and interest in the topic that has become the focal point for kids and schools today. Best, Joe Bruzzese, CEO & Founder, Sprigeo.com

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