What is anonymous reporting and why does it fall short in preventing bullying and harassment in schools?
Anonymous reporting is a “prevention system” that allows youth and adults to anonymously report safety concerns of at-risk behaviors to law enforcement and school administrators before individuals hurt themselves or others. Students and parents are told anonymous reporting is the best way to allow students to safely communicate when they are being bullied or feel threatened at school because creating anonymous reporting removes the threat of retaliation against the so called snitch – “snitches get stitches”. But is this the real reason or is something else driving the acceptance of ineffective anonymous reporting? Do students actually feel safe with anonymous reporting apps in schools? Do they actually receive the support they need when an incident is reported? Are schools simply checking the box when it comes to school safety?
Let’s run through a typical anonymous reporting scenario.
A school administrator receives an anonymous report from a student, teacher or a parent. The reporter cannot be identified so the administrator cannot confirm with the reporter of the incident that all the facts are true or ask other questions regarding the incident that may make his evaluation and follow up more efficient. But the administrator has an out; the report can be effectively ignored if the allegation cannot be confirmed – meaning the person accused of bullying simply says it is not true. It becomes a simple “he said she said” scenario, it gets tucked away as “resolved” and the students involved receive little to no behavioral resolution.
Anonymous reporting systems have a number of obvious weaknesses:
- There is no such thing as complete anonymity when it comes to today’s online communication
- There is little to no accountability for those who are responsible for responding to the anonymous report
- There is little to no accountability for those who report an incident leading to false or exaggerated reports
- Lack of accountability allows individuals to falsely accuse and defame others (a way to bully others)
- It takes a reactive approach to incidents rather than proactive, preventative or restorative approach
- It does not provide standardized data required to create predictive and prescriptive analytics
- It does not provide appropriate or immediate restorative resources for the aggressor(s) who may be struggling with social and emotional issues that cause them to act out
- Due to lack of accountability, it does not fully enforce the fact that it is the duty of the school’s management to investigate and resolve a problem when a students education is threatened by a bully or any other at-risk behavior in school
In conclusion, anonymous reporting is all form and no substance when it comes to preventing bullying and harassment, and the form is not well thought out. Students we spoke to believed that anonymous reporting systems, which by definition have no way to confirm who makes an allegation, can be “gamed” and used by bullies against innocent community members without repercussion. Lack of accountability allows schools to be negligent in their duty to investigate and resolve problems, thus doing little to prevent at-risk behaviors, bullying and harassment from continuing. Anonymous reporting does not go far enough to protect our students and we must consider a different approach to school safety.
Schools should consider “confidential reporting” to reduce bullying and harassment.
Confidential reporting hits all the marks in terms of safety and accountability for students, parents, teachers and administrators. Students safely communicate instances of unwanted or at-risk behaviors or interactions, from bullying and cyberbullying, to self-harm and sexual harassment. Students can no longer “game” the system to bully, harass, or create false reports without consequence because accountability has been put in place – sender of the report is known, but only to the receiver of the report. Administrators have access to additional information needed to fully investigate and resolve the issue (known victims, witnesses, etc.). And lastly, we rewrite the narrative of a “snitch” so that a person who speaks up for him or herself or for someone else who is struggling with a problem becomes an upstander and knows they are acting to help and support. Schools must enforce that it’s okay and kind to help yourself and others. By doing this they teach students important lessons in social and emotional growth.
How can your school implement a confidential reporting system?
The Bridg-it School platform is a revolutionary set of digital tools, accessible in multiple languages, that gives school administrators the ability to significantly improve and design their optimal school culture and a climate of safety. Its confidential reporting system is a comprehensive and sustainable bullying and harassment safety solution for the whole school community. Schools that implement the Bridg-it platform are able to use confidential reporting to streamline incident management and resolution saving administrators time and reducing risk. Schools now have the ability to address the lifecycle of an incident from detection to resolution and prevent future incidents from occurring. Talk to our safety experts to see how Bridg-it can protect your students and school.
It’s time for a new approach that works!
To see if your school system is participating in Bridg-it or to request a referral, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. To schedule a demo, please Click Here. If your school is not signed up, you can reach out to your school’s Superintendent, School Safety Officer, or Principal and request Bridg-it be launched in your school.