Valley schools addressing cyber bullying


POSTED: Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 5:38pm

UPDATED: Friday, May 2, 2014 - 8:32am

More than four out of 10 kids say they have been bullied online.

Eight out of 10 believe it's easier to get away with it online than in-person.

And yet, only one in 10 of the victims will inform a parent or other adult of the bullying.

The days of spiral notebooks and textbooks in classrooms are becoming a thing of the past as schools are replacing them with iPads and other devices for academic use. 

But with this tech-saavy generation of teens comes the growing issue of cyber bullying, adding a complicated twist to harassment between students and bringing school district officials to take action against this issue.

"To avoid some of those issues, we do block a lot of those social media sites, so we always have the department of technology monitoring what the students are getting on to," explained Jesus Martinez, a Prevention Intervention Specialist for McAllen ISD.

Since teens often figure out a way around blocked or prohibited apps, tech specialists constantly have to stay one step ahead.  Most schools have forms and hotlines to report bullying, but McAllen ISD is working on a digital approach.

The district is developing an anti bullying app that will be programmed on all of the iPads issued out by the school.

"The idea behind it is to be able to give the students an anonymous reporting system because we notice based off research, a lot of kids tend not to want to make a report because of fear of retaliation, not know what to do," Martinez said.  "So we decided, why don't we just give them a tool that they can report anonymously."

A pilot version of the app launched in 2012 to test it out and determine any necessary improvements.  The goal for the district is to have this app fully functional by this fall for the 2014-2015 school year.

"Now what the student can do with this tool is they can do one of three things--they can either take a picture of the incident that is occurring, they can record it with the video, or the most common one is they can write the message out," said Martinez.  "Once they write the message out, it's submitted to the McAllen ISD police department.  We, of course, read it, we filter it out, and then we re-direct it to the campus."

School districts across the Valley are dealing with inappropriate Twitter accounts like "RGV Confessions" detailing things students get away with while at school.

For the most part, each school has its own version of the account, but the "Sharyland Confessions" account is no more after administration disabled the account since it falls under their cyber bullying category.

Sharyland ISD's superintendent made a list of every student that had any association with the account and met with each of them individually.

"I personally called each of those students in and spoke with them because I wanted them to know what could happen with their social media page," said Dr. Virginia Richter.

The Sharyland Twitter account was immediately taken down, but the issue with terminating one account is that a new one can easily be created within seconds--it just needs a different user name and it's ready to go.

School district officials want to send a message to the parents that falls within the 140 character limit of tweets: Be involved in your child's online activities.

"First and foremost, any school cannot do it alone," Richter said.  "We need to encourage the parents to talk to them about the serious of anything that they post on any of their social media pages."


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