If the tragedies at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech University have taught us anything, it’s that bullying takes a serious toll on students.
“Many victims feel trapped, with no one to turn to until they reach a breaking point,” Cathy Leonard, a parent in the St. Matthew school district and coordinator of the Roosevelt after-school center and a possible subscriber to SchoolTipLine.com, said. “Unfortunately that breaking point often results in violence.”
Justin Bergener, founder and CEO of SchoolTipline.com, hopes to put an end to these violent outbursts by giving the students a place to turn.
SchoolTipline.com is a Web site designed specifically to allow student victims to report acts of bullying to school administration. The appeal? It allows the victims to remain anonymous and is completed online or via text messaging.
The Web site acts primarily as a third party, allowing students to generate anonymous reports regarding activities or behaviors within the school and then relays this information back to the designated faculty and administration.
“The hope,” Bergener said, as listed on the Web site, “is that students will break down the code of silence and become the eyes and ears of safety when empowered with anonymous communication, and reporting methods they prefer, such as the Web or text messages.”
Thus far the Web site has drawn both positive and negative reviews.
It has won various awards for its unique business plan and has been praised by all the major news channels.
Whitney Ford, senior elementary and special education major, said, “I’m not sure it would be taken seriously. Some people would use it, but there is always the handful of people who want to start trouble; send in false reports, make a joke out of it.”
SchoolTipline.com does take measures to deter false reporting and allows for participating schools to require a student login when sending a report.
This login remains visible only to Web site facilitators and isn’t released to the school unless a report is life-threatening.
SchoolTipline.com also reserves the right to trace IP addresses, block, delete user accounts or look up the users ID in the case of frivolous reporting or abuse of the system.
Eryn Morgan, senior exercise science major, said, “By definition, bullying is affecting someone else by means of intimidation, so of course a victim would be scared to report a bully. Being a tattle-tale would only lead to further bullying. The way to end the cycle is to enable the victim to remain anonymous.”
While the Web site is certainly innovative and has been adopted by over 50 schools across six states, there is a fundamental flaw in its execution. Anonymity doesn’t hold up in a court of law.
Lillian Burroughs, director of public safety, said, “Legally, it is better to have a written statement from the person that is being bullied to better be able to assist them. You have to remember, everyone has rights and in a court of law, people have the right to defend themselves in front of their accuser. Here, people could not do so. I even doubt our Cabrini judicial system could discipline without a witness or complainant.”