School district makes it easy for students to report bullying - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

School district makes it easy for students to report bullying

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

A new program in the Iowa City School District lets students easily report when bullying or harassment is happening, right on their phones.  It comes at a good time, as October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. 

The program began as a pilot program at the beginning of the school year before it was unveiled in all of the secondary schools.

All students have to do to report the incident is to text "@Bullying" to the provided number, which will then send a link for a report to be filed. It'll have the student ask a series of questions, including whether they were a victim or witness, the school that the incident occurred at, and where on school property. Students are then asked the nature of what happened, and are provided space to go into more detail about it.

"For us, it's really trying to figure out how we can do this in a way that students do feel most comfortable, but also feel safe and secure that their issue will be addressed," ICSD Director of Equity and Engagement, Kingsley Botchway, said. 

The reports get sent to Botchway, who reviews them before determining how to address the issue. 

"One of them was pretty concerning; basically it was around a situation of a high-level chance to happen again so, as soon as I saw it, I made a call to the principal. The principal addressed it immediately and was able to work the situation out," Kingsley said.

To encourage students to come forward through the program, they have an option to keep it anonymous. That's something students say makes them feel more comfortable doing so.

"I personally wouldn't want the other person bullying me to, like, know that I spoke out in fear of being attacked more so, with it being anonymous, they're able to say that there is a problem going on, but without there being a fear of someone backlashing at them," Sarah Nunez, a senior at Iowa City High School, said.

Classmate Kawther Rouabhi said it's a good option for someone who may not feel comfortable talking about it face-to-face

"I think this definitely serves maybe as an option for someone that's not able to come completely forward, but wants their voice heard in a different way," she said.

The district hopes this will encourage students to watch out for one another and use it to report when they witness bullying. Rouabhi said having the ability to do it by text makes that easier.

"Sometimes you feel weird coming to someone in person because you're not personally involved, so you may feel like you're meddling in a situation that you really don't have a say in.  But I think, if you really feel like something should be done about a situation, then I feel like this is a great opportunity for even the bystanders to have their voices be heard," said Rouabhi.

The students call the method a modern one that is easy to access since it's through their phones.

"Especially because it's texting. I always have my phone on me so if I were ever to see a situation where I feel a person is being attacked, but I was too nervous to personally confront the attacker, but I could step away and text the thing."

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