Bloomington Students Can Report Bullying Via Texts

Updated: 06/14/2013 11:57 AM By: Stephen Tellier

Bullying prevention is going high-tech, as a new program to keep kids safe heads to a large Twin Cities school district.
It's called TipTxt, and it was just endorsed by the national Parent Teacher Association -- and Bloomington Public Schools is rolling it out this fall.
Many students are hesitant to report signs of bullying, fearing retaliation or being labeled a tattletale. TipTxt seeks to solve that problem.
"I know I wasn't, but I felt alone," said Alyssa Beddoe, a former bullying victim.
Beddoe was bullied during her freshman year of high school. It started after she told classmates she was a lesbian.
"It was very difficult. There's no teachers around, no one I could talk to -- just the counselors, and i felt like I couldn't talk to any of the counselors," Beddoe said.
Soon, someone to talk to could be just a text away.
"This is one of those tools that I believe will have tremendous value for our students and for our staff," said Rick Kaufman, executive director of community relations and emergency management.
Bloomington will be one of the first districts in Minnesota to roll out TipTxt this fall. Think of it as a high-tech tip box -- a number students can text to report bullying, quickly and confidentially.
"It gives schools, school personnel, the opportunity to learn about someone maybe quicker because it's coming from a peer," Kaufman said.
And TipTxt is a two-way conversation between the tipster and school officials, and it uses technology most kids are most comfortable using.
"Students can begin to develop a sense of trust that if they have this information, they can share it," Kaufman said.
"You're not talking to a robot. So you're not just getting, 'Yes. No,' stuff like that. So you'll have someone talking, counseling you, making you feel better," Beddoe said.
Beddoe is a victim turned advocate, who is now working to make all schools safer. She said she would have used TipTxt.
"I would have texted in a heartbeat, knowing that if there was just someone there who would take care of this, and I wasn't alone," Beddoe said.
TipTxt is free for any K-12 school in the country. The program is being provided by Blackboard, an education technology company.
Kaufman said texts will likely be directed to someone in the main district office. But some of the details will be finalized this summer.
Some are concerned about the anonymity of the program, fearing that some students could report false information and unfairly target others. But Kaufman said the district would rather have to investigate too many texts than not have them at all.