HWDSB plans to launch a pilot program Feb. 27 at six schools using the latest mobile technology to encourage anonymous reporting of bullying and other incidents that may lead to unsafe conditions at our schools.
The service will use text messaging and will provide an iPhone and Android smartphone app, available to the wider community, to receive tips and share useful information from schools. The iPhone app is approved and Android approval is expected in the weeks ahead. The app is available now for download on iTunes, but the service is expected to go live Feb. 27.
“Student safety is our top priority at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board,” said Superintendent of Student Achievement Pam Reinholdt, who is responsible for the safe schools portfolio. “We expect this pilot will result in safer schools when students can share tips without the fear of reprisal, judgment or discovery.”
The HWDSB service, called TipOff, receives incoming text messages from students, staff and community members via text messaging or a dedicated smartphone app. A central operator receives each message and gathers basic information about each tip. The tip is then shared with the appropriate school so that Board and school protocols can be followed. Every sender’s phone number is scrambled to preserve their anonymity. Research suggests that when students, staff and parents are all involved in promoting a positive school environment, school can become a safer and more welcoming place.
The six schools in the pilot for 2012-13 include: Glendale, Saltfleet District, Sir Winston Churchill, Waterdown District and Westdale secondary schools, as well as Cardinal Heights Elementary School.
TipOff will not provide a counselling service, however, it can direct students in crisis to Kids Help Phone or 911. It is not a substitute for school policies but, rather, it supports Board policies such as the requirement for a way to receive anonymous reports of bullying. This information service will help schools collect tips and then address them in the same way a school would address a face-to-face tip.
HWDSB continues to work closely with the service provider, InTouch Mobile, so that this pilot project reflects the Board’s operating procedures and goals.
“It’s great that HWDSB sees how mobile technology can give today’s mobile generation of students a voice,” said Moira Benjamin of InTouch Mobile. “We are excited to partner with them in providing a tool that will encourage participation and help provide a safer and more equitable environment for all students.”
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