By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor
As the media frenzy continues around bullying, I don’t want to be viewed as jumping on the bandwagon. However, despite the media circus, sadly we are losing children who feel their lives are too difficult to continue, it is important that people in every aspect of school organizations look to how they can assist in making schools safer.
From an IT standpoint, we need to ensure that we are putting the appropriate safeguards in place to limit bullying and harassment in all of its forms. Does the district filter e-mail and websites that contain hate speech or assist bullies in accessing victims? Do you block student access to Facebook, etc.? Some students prefer not to have access in schools. Edmodo and similar programs provide the same functionality with the ability to provide staff controls on content.
What type of instruction on reacting to cyberbullying and Internet safety in general is being provided to all of your students? Do students have the necessary tools to make good decisions and stay safe in the cybervironment? Do social work and counseling staff have the necessary understanding of how the cybervironment works to support children, or should the IT department provide some in-service for them? Does the website have a section on responding to bullying for parents? For students? For staff?
How does the district’s technology provide for students to be able to report bullying or other harassment? Our district website has a bullying reporting link in the footer on each page. We don’t get many reports, but we follow up on each one we receive. Are the local Crimestoppers-type programs able to forward concerns about bullying, etc., to the proper school officials?
As the IT staff walk down the hallways in your schools, make sure they know how to respond to bullying and know to say hello or smile at the student who looks a little lost or out of sorts. Make sure every adult in the building tries to make students feel safe and welcome in your schools.
Remember that before we can teach the children to become worldly and well educated, we need to make sure they feel safe and secure.
Steven M. Baule is superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning.