The Hamilton public school board’s new bullying app resulted in 132 calls and texts in its first three months — enough that the app is being expanded to 52 schools across the city.
Most of the calls came from four of the six schools involved in the pilot project.
TipOff, launched in March by the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, is designed to take anonymous calls and texts from students at local high schools and middle schools. It started as a pilot at six schools, but only four schools really used it. The board expanded the app's usage to the 52 schools as of Monday.
'We felt strongly enough about that number that we decided to expand it.'- HWDSB Superintendent Pam Reinholdt
Of the texts and calls received from March to the end of May, about one-third of them were actual bullying cases, said Pam Reinholdt, the board’s executive superintendent of student achievement. Some were from parents.
“We felt strongly enough about that number that we decided to expand it,” she said.
When the TipOff app launched, it was the first in Ontario, although other boards have since launched their own. The texts go to a central operator, who then reports to the principals and vice-principals of the schools involved.
Cardinal Heights Elementary, Glendale, Saltfleet, Sir Winston Churchill, Waterdown and Westdale secondary schools participated in the pilot project, although the latter two had few reports, Reinholdt said.
Thirty-five per cent of the texts were bullying reports, eight per cent were related to drugs, seven per cent were related to cyberbullying and another eight per cent were suggestions, Reinholdt said. In a handful of them, students reported random acts of kindness.
Students reported all kinds of bullying, with the majority being physical. It has helped school administrators identify when and where bullying is happening, Reinholdt said.
The expansion coincides with Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week, which is Nov. 18 to 22. Research suggests that about 30 per cent of students are bullied on a regular basis, the board said. When someone intervenes, it stops within seven seconds.
“We are taking real steps to prevent and eliminate bullying in schools and build a more positive school climate,” said Manny Figueiredo, executive superintendent of leadership and learning, in a media release this week.
This week, students are helping design two posters to advertise the app in the relevant schools. The board is also holding positive school climate sessions.