WASHINGTON — Students are getting a new weapon to fight back against bullies: their cell phones.
A leading education technology company on Wednesday announced it would give schools a free and confidential way for students to tell school officials via text that they are being bullied or are witnessing bullying. Blackboard’s TipTxt program could change the school climate — or reveal just how pervasive student-on-student harassment has become.
“Kids have cell phones. They have mobile devices,” said Blackboard chief executive officer Jay Bhatt, whose 9-year-old daughter is already sending digital messages to her friends. “They’re constantly interacting with their mobile devices.”
Blackboard, which provides products to more than half of the nation’s schools, will offer the service for free starting immediately. Texts sent through the confidential program will be routed to school officials, who then will determine how to investigate.
“Things always came (by) word of mouth or in the line coming back from the playground. That whisper down the lane has always occurred,” said Thomas Murray, a former principal who now is director of technology and cyber education at Quakertown Community School District in suburban Allentown, Pa. “We want students to do what’s right. This is another avenue we can tap into.”
Murray said his schools were no worse than most with bullying, but decided to be among the first to employ the Blackboard system.