Texas school districts using tool to tackle cyber-bullying

School districts across Texas are using tools to help tackle bullying and other serious incidents.

Anonymous Alerts is a reporting system that's already making a difference and, saving lives. The system is set up on school computers and a smartphone app is also available.

"Last year we lost three students to suicide and it was devastating, that we would lose that many students," says Dr. Kari Murphy, chief technology officer, Deer Park ISD. 

Dr. Kari Murphy with Deer Park ISD says since implementing Anonymous Alerts this fall, it has been a life-saver. Administrators received an urgent report about a student contemplating suicide and they immediately began an intervention.

"Our counselors were able to step up, our principals were able to step in and we were able to save a life," says Dr. Murphy. 

Dr. Murphy says the highest number of reports they see is in regards to bullying. Back on September 1st David's Law took effect in Texas, allowing school districts to take their fight against bullying off campus and online. It requires administrators to notify parents of victims and bullies about incidents. School districts must also create a policy to report bullying, which is why nearly 150 across the state are now using Anonymous Alerts. 

"They can go on and make the report. They pick who they are, which is a student. They pick their school and they can report right away whether it's harassment, drugs, self-harm, bullying, cyber-bullying. It's very specific," says Christine Dodaj, business development, Anonymous Alerts. 

The report is then sent to administrators who determine what course of action should be taken. They can message the student back and there is the option of remaining anonymous. 

"This is a great technology tool for us to be able to capture what the kids want to say. It gives them a voice, especially when they're afraid to say what's going on," says Tom Brawley, director of technology, Tomball ISD.  

The system can be accessed on computers on campus or a mobile app can be downloaded to a student's phone. Parents can also make a report. 

"The price for this application is nothing, nothing compared to a life of a child," says Dr. Murphy. 

Round Rock ISD also uses the system. They say since September 2017, they have received 168 anonymous alerts. The majority were regarding bullying/harassment/teasing, but also cheating on school work, suicidal thoughts/threats and depression.

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