When it comes to defending oneself against a bully, the clichéd, yet familiar solution is to get a bigger kid at school to help fight back.
In real life, that never seems to work.
However, students at Pulaski County High School will have an ally this year if they are bullied. It’s not a bigger kid, but rather a smaller friend in the form of a mobile application.
Pulaski County High School will be using the app as part of a pilot program, encouraging students to download BullyBox on their smart phones should they ever witness someone being tormented, or find themselves the victim.
According to Pulaski County Public Schools assistant superintendent Dr. Greg Brown, BullyBox is the latest tool the administration has to combat what he calls a growing problem across the country.
“It’s something that we’re always trying to combat – the bullying issue – always trying to look at things to make our school system better and so forth,” Brown says. “So with that being said, we thought this was something we could try.”
According to Brown, PCPS is constantly solicited apps by the vendors that make them, but BullyBox stuck out in particular. While he became interested in it, superintendent Dr. Tom Brewster had already been looking into the program to incorporate the app, and, as it turned out, both men were impressed by it.
The school pays a flat yearly price to use the app as part of the program. After some discussion, the PCPS administration decided PCHS would pilot the program for BullyBox.
According to Brown, each school in Pulaski County – including the elementary schools – have its own cell phone policies, as more and more students are given smart phones at a younger age. It turned out that the high school’s cell phone policy, which allows students to use their phones at lunch, in between classes and even in class on occasion for special activities, lent itself to the program.
“It truly was the fact that it was something that was modern, that the kids could use and could benefit the administration more efficiently and effectively as they move forward with investigation potential allegations,” Brown says.
Students will be able to download BullyBox to their smart phones. Posters will be made and distributed throughout PCHS informing students about the app, which can be downloaded in the iOS App Store for iPhone or the Google Play Store for android phones.
To use it, students enter a code unique to PCHS. The witness or victim can then enter their name, the name of the bully, any other witnesses, the location and even a picture as evidence of the bullying.
Once that’s submitted, a report is emailed to an administrator, who then investigates the incident, as the reported accused will be innocent until proven guilty. Above all, anonymity is the main idea behind the app.
“The hope is that individuals who are somewhat hesitant to engage or report that information would be more comfortable in doing so,” Brown explains.
A high school student developed the app as he participated in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) at his school, much like PCHS will do this school year in partnership with the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce. Although the app came about as the result of a similar program elsewhere, Brown says that wasn’t a major deciding factor in PCPS adopting BullyBox.
“It’s not going to be the end result of anything, it’s simply going be a communication piece to more effectively get information to an administrator,” Brown says.
The BullyBox app is part of a push by PCPS to encourage students to embrace newer technology through an initiative Brown refers to as “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device). Even for the students who don’t have access to smart phones and tablets at home, Brown says they will be able to supply those devices on the high school level.
More programs centered on mobile technology are also being developed for PCPS. For those students who don’t own a smart phone but need to use the BullyBox app, they can do so through the app’s website, bullyboxreport.com, or text a report to the website if they own a feature phone that doesn’t support the app.
Although Brown says the app will not be the final solution to eliminating bullying, he says BullyBox will still be a useful tool as it is incorporated this school year.
“Bullying is an issue nationwide, and it’s an issue that’s never going to go away,” he acknowledges. “So we’re going to strive to get better and better at addressing the issue. This, we view, is just an instrument for helping us move toward that goal.”
If it works out successfully at the high school, Brown says the program could possibly expand to the county’s middle schools in the future.