The Next Step to Stop Bullying

by Ed Miller, Blackboard

ed miller

Every day, an estimated 160,000 children miss school due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students– an alarming, disheartening statistic. The good news is that the vast majority of students already have a bullying prevention tool in their pocket. We just need to give them a way to use it.

That’s why Blackboard is proud to announce today that we are offering TipTxt, a two-way anti-bullying service for students to confidentially notify school officials of bullying or school safety issues, to every K-12 school in the U.S. for free. All schools need is a dedicated phone line, and Blackboard will absorb all other costs. We’ve never done something on this scale, and no company has made such an offer. To add even greater visibility to this effort, we are thrilled to be collaborating with the National PTA.

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Why are we doing this? Since our inception, Blackboard has worked to solve problems in education. And bullying and school safety are large problems. We hope that making this powerful service available at no charge to every school in the country will be a small step in creating safer learning environments.

According to the National Education Association, many children are reluctant to report bullying to school administrators or even their own teachers. They fear being viewed as “weak” or being labeled a “snitch.” While many school leaders have implemented programs to teach students to recognize and respond to bullying and other safety issues, students need even more help.

To make bullying prevention as effective as possible, we must remove as many barriers to reporting it as possible. Studies confirm that young people increasingly prefer to use text or SMS to communicate. According to a Pew Internet and American Life Study, 75 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 carry a cell phone, and people as young as eight text on them.

Nearly as immediate as a hotline conversation, texting has the added advantage of seeming more anonymous. This makes some students more likely to use it to report uncomfortable – or dangerous – situations.

With TipTxt, when a student is involved in or witnesses a bullying incident, they simply text a descriptive message to the unique district TipTxt number, and the message will be confidentially relayed to school administrators who can then respond with immediate action.

Preventing bullying is a delicate, and tiered, process. It requires involved parents, conscientious school administrators and, maybe most importantly, empowered students. Technology is an invaluable tool in the mission to end bullying. It reminds students they are not alone – and gives them access to instant, expert help.

Bring TipTxt into your community by contacting us at Blackboard.com/tiptxtK12,and get involved in the conversation to help stop bullying with hashtag #tiptxt.

My Americorp Experience with National PTA

Last week was “Americorps Week”, celebrating alum and members doing service across the country. Many people may not be aware of what Americorps is, let alone how it relates to PTA. I like to sum it up by saying that Americorps is like the domestic Peace Corps. We volunteer to serve for a year with a nonprofit or government agency, aiding communities in areas such as education, health, and economic development. I came to National PTA to support the Urban Development department and to accomplish work for the Connect for Respect Anti-Bullying Initiative in the local area schools. Before coming to National PTA, I had no idea how many facets of the organization  existed or how much PTA had done for children advocacy. As a VISTA, which is a branch of Americorps, I am especially focused on eliminating the achievement gaps that affect those living in poverty. In order to give volunteers a true understanding of poverty, VISTAs are only given a modest living stipend which is equal to the poverty level in the area they serve. Many of us, myself included, utilize food stamps and share housing to cut expenses. I can’t afford much, and I do get judging looks in grocery store lines when I pull out my EBT card, but I still feel that the experience has been an upgrade more than a hardship. I was one of the many displaced college graduates of the last several years. I graduated with honors, student debt, and a deluded optimism about job prospects. I found full-time work in the area of my business degree, and made an hourly wage of eight dollars with no benefits. I moved back in with my parents, sold my belongings on eBay, and painted furniture for extra cash. Feeling unfulfilled and underutilized, I started volunteering with a crisis hotline to give my life more meaning. I had heard good things about Americorps and after much deliberation, I applied for a position at National PTA. Within two months, I was relocating for my year of service. I am now embarking on my fifth month of service with National PTA, and so far I have loved it. Contributing to the mission of Connect for Respect, to eliminate bullying, is something I am passionate about. I feel that I am very fortunate to have found a service project that I personally believe in, and an organization that supports it. I have also had opportunities to travel to Queens, NY and Las Vegas, NV to work with their UFEI teams. I have met more people and gained more new experiences from Americorps than I ever would have been able to on my own. I am excited to see where the remainder of my service takes me and how my service will impact the community.

Erin Thwaites | AmeriCorps VISTA

The Man Behind the Cloak and Lens

My dad was a magician…. Well so I thought when I was younger.  I would enter my class with a shiny, silver penny almost everyday.  The kids would be in awe,wondering how I got a silver penny.  Everyone knew pennies were copper of course.  However, my answer was simple. “ It’s magic, my daddy made it.”  My dad was not a magician, but a Middle School Science Teacher  (He actually had to leave a PTA meeting because my mom went into labor with me).

Anyway back to the magic….We  (My brother, sister and I) went to school early with him everyday and I am sure he had to find some ways to entertain us before the school bell rang.  So he would mix some “magic potions” and make  smoke, fire and my beloved silver pennies.  Looking back I truly appreciated my father being apart of my home and school life.  Knowing he could pop up at any moment definitely altered my behavior at school.  I saw him at lunch, recess and after school.  To be honest, I didn’t always want him around but was secretly comforted that he was a door or two away.

I also have a vivid memory of my childhood because of my father.  Because of his passion for photography he made sure to capture every moment on film.  Each of my siblings have at least 3 gigantic photo albums  each, starting from day one that chronicles every play, sport, dance recital, cotillion and graduation we were apart of.  Many people may not know what my father looked like because he was in a lab coat (magic cloak) or behind a lens.

Flash forward to about 20 years later.  My dad now retired but has played the same active role in my nephew’s life.  His life is being captured on film and he sets up little science projects for him to discover.  He even wants to be a magician.

But it’s really not about the magic.  The memories are about the time that was shared.  My dad is the same as any other male figure who wants to be apart of a child’s life.  Children want you to be present and active in their lives.  That is why we are so excited about the Million Hours of Power Movement and what it can mean for so many children.  It means the nurturing of the next great scientist, photographer and yes maybe even magician.

You don’t have to be a male to help us in our plight for male involvement.   Simply start with voting.

Vote for PTA’s Million Hours of Power in the Pepsi Refresh project, then encourage everyone you know to vote for PTA.

– LaWanda Amaker is the Marketing/Communications Manager  for National PTA based in Alexandria VA. Her parents  Lin and Carolyn Amaker live in Orangeburg, SC where they raised her and her two siblings – Maurice and Sherrie