While it has long been known that bullying is common in schools, it is only recently that educators, students, and administrators are weighing the full gravity of bullying and exploring ways to better prevent and handle this issue.
As with any incident-related challenge, collecting and examining related data helps provide clarity and direction. Although many bullying intervention tactics exist, anonymous school reporting is key to encouraging community voices to speak up. Yet to understand how anonymous school reporting helps prevent bullying, SROs and members of the school community must first dissect the many layers that contribute to the issue.
1. Fear of Retribution
The National Center for Educational Statistics recently reported 20.8% of students between the ages of 12-18 will experience bullying at school. While this statistic is important—and very telling—the reality is that many incidents go unreported. When students are bullied at school, there are many reasons the victim may not feel comfortable speaking up. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to reporting acts of bullying is the fear of retribution.
Retribution can occur physically, socially, or emotionally and extend into multiple social circles, impacting the way a student is viewed and treated by their peers. Anonymous school reporting dissolves this layer of fear, enabling students, staff, or family members to come forward and speak up without requiring they identify themselves or be directly involved with the repercussions.
Although schools have historically protected the identity of those coming forward with allegations of bullying, the act of physically speaking with a counselor, principal, or teacher is often a major hurdle to reporting. Not all students have relationships with these members of the school community and may be reluctant to report issues to them directly. However, the student's level of comfort in these relationships should not preclude effective incident reporting.
2. See Something—Say Something
Anonymous school reporting software that is accessible to all students in their own space—on their phones or online—empowers even the shyest students to say something when they see something. As it stands, 65% of victims report that the bullying they experienced wasn't reported by them or their peers to the proper school officials. For anonymous reporting to be as effective as possible, schools need to establish the expectation that students are responsible for holding each other accountable for their actions.
This need for greater accountability also extends to the entire school community. The lack of involvement from members of the greater school community has been brought to light recently due to an increase in fatal school shootings. While truly understanding the motives behind such acts of violence is impossible, many times people come forward afterwards to admit they noticed the perpetrator was exhibiting concerning behavior, including bullying others at school or being bullied themselves.
Bullying often has profound effects on individual and community safety. Therefore, it is incumbent upon each individual to hold themselves and others accountable to the school community at large. In other words, "see something, say something." Providing the means to report incidents of bullying anonymously—without fear of retaliation—helps facilitate this accountability.
3. Moving Forward
Once you implement anonymous reporting technology, the information collected becomes key to fostering a support system within your school. When bullying claims are supported by data, the conflicts that impact your students become more concrete and trackable. Armed with this data, you may also uncover specific details about the issues affecting your student body, such as gang violence, social cliques, or emotional bullying.
Gathering and analyzing incident-related data provides you with valuable insights that inform preventative action. For example, you may obtain the proof needed to hire specially trained personnel who are better equipped to address your school's particular issues or provide additional, specialized counseling for students. Teachers, counselors, and administrators are responsible for a wide breadth of education and guidance, but they can't be everything to everyone. Ensure your students have access to necessary resources by collecting and utilizing all data related to bullying.
Bullying is now being recognized for the grave dangers it's capable of creating within a school community and the psychological harm it often inflicts upon individuals. Schools today are recognizing the need to modernize and improve the way bullying is handled to better serve their students—and anonymous reporting is a crucial component of this effort.