A new tablet and web app that allows students to report bullying was previewed Saturday on the second and final day of a Beaufort County School District workshop.
The app has been installed on the school-issued tablets students will use this year, according Gregory McCord, the district's head of Student Services.
It will make reporting anonymous and instantaneous, he said during the gathering in Beaufort.
"We want it to be easier and more comfortable for students and families to report incidents," McCord said. "This is just an opportunity to get the information from students at a faster pace."
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From his iPad, McCord walked the board through the process step-by-step.
When students open the app on a tablet -- or if they visit the web-based app on a desktop computer -- they are prompted to enter basic information about the incident -- the time, date and location of the incident, the bullying victim's name and the reporting student's relationship to the victim.
Another field prompts the student to describe the incident in detail and provide a "name and/or description of the bully."
Students also can upload a photo with their report and have the option of providing their contact information, McCord said.
"Once they hit send, it comes directly to a live person in Student Services so that we can immediately push it out to the principal (at that location)," he said.
From there, principals or counselors can investigate what happened and contact the parents of both the victim and perpetrator, McCord said. If reports are serious enough -- threats of extreme violence, for example -- Student Services will follow its existing procedure for contacting school resource officers or the police, he added.
District officials have said the app is not directly related to the April 30 suicide of a Robert Smalls Middle School sixth-grader Celeste Wills, who parents and friends said was the target of bullying.
That incident, however, has stoked an important, community-wide conversation about bullying, how to prevent it and how to help those who have been victims, school board members said.
"I think the prevention activities are fantastic," school board chairman Bill Evans said. "All the things we're doing to try to prevent bullying are just super, but I'm realistic enough to know we're not going to be able to stop all of it. We need to establish an expectation of following up with these kids afterward as well."
The app is another step in understanding how to improve those procedures, McCord and superintendent Jeff Moss said.
"I had a long talk with my daughter about bullying," McCord said. "She's in high school. Just talking to her, it's amazing how often we overlook these situations, as adults, that might be happening before our very eyes. So we need to make sure our teachers are also training to recognize signs of bullying."
OTHER WORKSHOP TOPICS:
The board also discussed:
- Revisions to the superintendent's annual evaluation rubric, which will give board members the opportunity to rate Moss's performance on a variety of district goals under the following categories: not demonstrated; proficient; accomplished; or distinguished.
- Projections for school district tax revenue to be collected this fiscal year, which are based on a tax rate that will be finalized by Beaufort County Council later this month.
Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.