Friday, January 17, 2014

Maybe Not the Best New Thing in the World

Since we should know by now the types of abuses that can be fueled by internet anonymity, it came as quite a surprise to me to find that South Carolina's proposed answer to school bullying is an anonymous reporting website.

As the parent of a boy who was targeted by bullies who made horrific accusations about him when he pushed back, I can just imagine how much fun bullies can have after school on such a website.  I imagine that someone who is afraid to come forward might also utilize the site, but... then what?  Are school officials then responsible for accusing a student with no ability to get access to needed details?  After a student is confronted by school officials, the officials may not know who did the reporting, but the bullies just might figure it out.  And just supposed the complaint is fabricated, will that make our school officials actually complicit in the bullying? 

Once again, this appears to be a situation where an easy solution is proposed because a real solution would be difficult.

Principal Bradley of Aiken Middle School understands that anonymous "reporting" can open up a can of worms, without solving the problem.  That is why at his school, there is a bullying prevention program, and information provided on their website to students as to how to report bullying.

When a child is bullied, the last thing they need is for adults to create greater distance.  Trusted contact is essential, as well as the reassurance that after the reporting they will not be abandoned.  Even in schools where such a website is put up with all good intentions, the pressures of running a school are such that these anonymous cases will become more difficult to pursue than working to have an environment wherein students feel comfortable trusting an adult with their fears.

So let's not be tempted to take the easy way out on this one.  As with any form of violence, and especially with children, adults that are not afraid to reach out to them is what's needed, not more isolation.

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