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Students Use Reporting Hotline to Bully Peers

Students Use Reporting Hotline to Bully Peers

A hotline designed to make schools safe is now being used by students to bully others.  Now, lawmakers and school officials are scrambling in an effort to address false reports made through Safe2Tell.

The hotline was created after the Columbine shooting so that students could anonymously report concerns and prevent potential acts of violence.

Lucy Geiselman, a 15-year old student, found herself victim to several false reports.  Three anonymous tips claimed that she was using drugs –  provided by her parents – and that she was suicidal.  After a few trips to the office and a call to mom, it was her friends that discovered that their peers were using Safe2Tell to target students within a specific social group.

Geiselman and others are now asking for changes.  “It’s just so easy to abuse the system,” Geiselman said.  Bullying reporting hotlines and software are designed to prevent bullying but unfortunately they can make things worse, when misused.

Educators in Texas, are also concerned about reporting.  Some schools which offer cash rewards for reporting crimes are now faced with the decision of whether or not to pay students the reward when bullying occurs.  Under “David’s Law” bullying is now a criminal offense in the state of Texas.

Lucy and her mom, Liz Geisleman (credit: CBS)
In regards to Safe2Tell and lawmakers response, Lucy’s mom, Liz Geisleman, had this to say.  “I think this is one of most well intentioned pieces of legislation that has ever happened in Colorado, but we’re getting pulled into this spider web of unintended consequences.”

The founder and CEO of Safe2Tell admits that school reports are “inconsistent”.   What one school deems false, another might say is unsubstanciated”.  Safe2Tell has received 9,000 reports this year and expects that number to double next year.

As a social skills educator, I teach students how to solve their own social problems, empowering them to respond to mean behavior.  In addition, I teach them the difference between something that causes objective harm (harm to your body or property) and subjective harm (someone trying to hurt your feelings).  The result is strong, confident kids and reduced costs for schools as social conflicts are quickly and easily resolved.  To learn more about the effectiveness of this approach click here.
– Jeff Veley