Pinellas Schools combat cyberbullying through anonymous reporting

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Cyberbullying is the use of any technology – social media posts, or text messages – intended to cause harm.

Joan Reubens has been the Bullying Prevention Specialist for Pinellas County Schools for 11 years. She says there’s a lot more cyberbullying as technology continues to get better.

“Our students are engaging in cyberbullying on social networking sites, and sometimes they engage in it while on school grounds,” says Joan.

There are endless ways cyberbullying can be transmitted.

>>How much social media monitoring of your kids is enough?

“Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Kik. I have to try to stay up to date with all these different apps and social networking sites our kids are engaging in,” Joan says.

Pinellas County Schools now use a program called ‘Anonymous Alerts.’ Complaints may be made by students or parents, and the school where the bullying is reported is notified immediately. Last school year, 1,300 reports of bullying came in through Anonymous Alerts, and one-third were substantiated as bullying or harassment. That’s nearly 400 cases in one year. Each school has a response team. When a complaint is filed, the response team investigates within 24 hours. In every case, a parent is notified. If a report is verified, the student(s) involved receives, at the minimum, a discipline referral.

Joan says the best way to curb cyberbullying is to be proactive before the bullying occurs.

“You have to know where your kids are when they’re online. It’s okay – and you should – be looking in to what they’re saying, what they’re doing, who their friends are, online.”

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