Boston public schools leverage SMS to combat bullying
By Chantal Tode
September 9, 2013
Students can send a confidential text
Public schools in Boston have launched a two-way texting service that seeks to prevent bullying by giving students a confidential way to communicate with school officials.
The TipTxt program takes messages sent by students to the district’s local TipTxt number and forwards them to a dedicated email inbox. Keyword-based filters trigger an automatic response and administrators can then follow up with a personal reply that could include a variety of resources, content and help on a case-by-case basis.
“When a student or member of the district community sees or experiences bullying, they can text a message to the district’s local TipTxt number,” said Jennie Breister, manager of product marketing for Blackboard, Washington.
“The keyword-based filters are what make TipTxt more sophisticated than traditional text,” she said. “It cuts down on administrative workflow and students get that personalized response immediately so they know they’re being heard.
“By using a technology that most people already own and a form of communication that is widely prevalent among school-aged children, usage increases and adoption barriers decrease. By adopting TipTxt, BPS and the City of Boston are demonstrating how committed they are to using innovative strategies to prevent bullying and to meet students where they are comfortable.”
TipTxt was developed by Blackboard and is being offered free to all K-12 schools to help address the issue of bullying. It is in place at dozens of school districts for the 2013-2014 school year.
Boston Public Schools, which encompasses 128 schools with 58,000 students, is recognized as a leading district in bullying prevention. The district worked with Blackboard on the deployment.
“Boston Public Schools is widely recognized as a leading district in bullying prevention,” Ms. Breister said. “Two years ago, the district set-up an anti-bullying hotline that connects school officials with parents in order to relay bullying reports.
“By adopting TipTxt at the start of the 2013-2014 school year, BPS is giving their 58,000 students yet another resource to confidentially report bullying and issues related to bullying,” she said.
With many students carrying mobile phones these days, the TipTxt tip line allows for confidential text conversations between students and school officials about critical challenges that students face, such as abuse, self-esteem or confidence problems.
Officials can then provide resources, advice or other follow-up to help on a case-by-case basis.
“By using mobile technology to help combat bullying, districts like BPS, are making a valuable service available to any and all parents and students that simply have a phone, that’s powerful,” Ms. Breister said. “It helps increase the likelihood that students will reach out for help and not have to handle issues alone.
“Additionally, the flexibility of using a mobile device to report incidents allow students to feel in control of the challenges they witness or experience, without the fear that sometimes surrounds a meeting or phone call,” she said.
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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