Genoa schools have added a new tool to the arsenal in the campaign to combat bullying.
An anonymous tip section has been added to the homepage of the Genoa Local School District website this year, according to Genoa Schools Superintendent Dennis Mock.
The tipster can type in the time, location and incident details and then send it off electronically to school officials without fear of identification or reprisal.
The school district has had a telephone tip line for a number of years.
State education officials mandated the hotline in the wake of the April 20, 1999 Columbine High School shootings, Mock noted. Bullying and isolation, in part, were believed to have fueled the rampage two high school boys unleashed upon classmates and teachers. Both gunmen died in the massacre along with 13 others.
The new tip line is designed for those who may be hesitant to call on the telephone and leave a message.
Mock said the telephone line has only ever received a handful of complaints.
He notes the new electronic tip line is also available to all – students bullied by students, parents with issues about pupils, teachers or bus drivers or even community members who believe they have witnessed a disturbing event.
“We’ll be looking at these and then dealing with them,” the superintendent said. “The only problem is there is no way to get back with the people to talk to them about how it’s being resolved.”
The school website also boasts a bullying resource center. The center, created by school technology director Tom Baker, includes local information as well as links to government sites and information. Resources include tips for recognizing those being bullied, teen videos showing ways to stop bullying and blog sites to join the conversation.
Bullying was once considered a natural part of adolescence. But it has been thrust into the national spotlight in recent years following a string of high-profile suicides linked to kids who were bullied. The introduction of the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and other social media also has escalated physical bullying to an onslaught of cyberbullying.
Genoa officials did not have the incident tally available for bullying complaints filed last year.
However, “I’d be surprised if the numbers got into the double digits,” said Kevin Katafias regarding the incident reports collected individually at Genoa Middle School and Genoa High School. He oversees both as principal. The incidents are about divided between face-to-face contact and technology, he said.
“When kids report it, we follow up. We work with the students and their parents. They just want someone to know,” Katafias said.
If the bullying persists, the other student and their parents are brought in to discuss the issues. “Most of the time that’s more than effective,” the principal said.
Nearby Benton-Carroll-Salem School District posts its bullying reporting update on its district website. High school enrollment numbered 530 last year. By spring 2012, 51 bullying incidents had been reported, according to the website.
Concern for the growing number of incidents nationwide has prompted schools and other organizations to pursue vigilant anti-bullying campaigns. Students are taught about the repercussions of bullying and encouraged to sign anti-bullying pledges. Many of those pledge signs can be seen posted on school walls across Ottawa County.
Even the Cartoon Network has launched a “speak up and stop bullying” campaign.
Nationally, the Obama administration has vowed to target bullying.
With that in mind, a set of advertisements for television, print and the web start running in October. They were unveiled in early August. The campaign is a joint effort by The Ad Council, a non-profit that distributes public service announcements, and the Free to Be Foundation, a group that includes entertainers Marlo Thomas, Alan Alda and Mel Brooks.