Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spokane Public Schools' bullying-reporting form has problems

Posted By on Tue, Apr 9, 2013 at 2:45 PM

This week we’re publishing a cover story about how schools are fightingbullying in the region. Throughout the week, on the blog, we’ll also publishrelated tidbits and stories.

In the past decade, surveys have consistently shown about third of SpokaneCounty 6th and 8th graders say they were bullied at least once in the past 30 days. But how many of thoseactually reported it?

Many of the anti-bullying efforts in Spokane Public Schools have centered onencouraging students to report bullying when they see it. If the schools don’tknow about it, after all, they can’t try to stop it.

In Washington state, by law, school districts are required to have a formwhere students can report bullying incidents. Spokane Public Schools goes onestep further, uploading the form as a PDF online. But not everyone’s pleased with the result.

click to enlarge Gonzaga Prep student Julia Brown, an anti-bullying activist. - YOUNG KWAK
Young Kwak
Gonzaga Prep student Julia Brown, an anti-bullying activist.

When I talked to Gonzaga Prep student Julia Brown, a young anti-bullyingactivist, she brought up the form, aghast. “You have to go the district page, goto the link, print out a PDF file and fill it out and bring it to youradministrator the next morning,” Brown says. “Honestly, seriously, what kid age 14 to 18 would dothat? No one.”

To be fair, it’s easier for students to just fill out the form in theirschool’s office directly. And the form can be edited electronically.Theoretically, students can log on from home, type in information about theincident and then hit “submit” to immediately alert districtadministration to bullying.

But when I tested it with a variety of different browsers, it doesn’t appear to workvery well in practice. In Firefox, the submit button doesn’t appear at all.Instead, my browser displayed a “This PDF document might not be displayedcorrectly” error. In Chrome, the button doesn’t appear to do anything whenclicked. In Internet Explorer, a message pops up, asking to connect with adesktop email program like Microsoft Outlook – not exactly the most popularsoftware for high school students. Otherwise, the message encourages students tosave the document after it’s been filled out, download it, and upload it totheir email and send it as an attachment.

The district has considered using QR codes to let students link directly tothe form, but when I loaded the form on my cell phone, I couldn’t edit itthere either. Tommy Williams, leader of the district’s “See it, Say It”anti-bullying program also thinks the current PDF doesn’t work very well.
“How is that relevant to today’s students?” he asks.

To encourage kids to submit reports about bullying, he says, it needs to beas easy as filling out three simple questions in an online comment box.

Brown says Facebook is the answer. Students bully on Facebook — why can't reporting bullying be as easy as sending a Facebook message?

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, staff writer Daniel Walters is the Inlander's City Hall reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...