Identities protected to report school bullying

Mad River Local Schools is the latest area district to offer a confidential bully reporting system that allows students, their friends or parents to report incidents online or through a hotline.

Several other districts offer a similar service, including Beavercreek, Miamisburg, Trotwood-Madison, Yellow Springs, Troy, Piqua and the career centers in Greene and Warren counties.

Mad River plans to unveil its reporting tool on its website Monday in time for the new school year, which starts Tuesday. It is part of the district’s beefed-up bully prevention program in the wake of an eighth-grade Mad River Middle School student committing suicide on May 21.

Paul Hauan, 13, of Riverside died from an apparent gunshot wound. Paul’s mother, Lisa Noland, told the newspaper after his death that her son told her last year he didn’t like being at school because kids were bigger and “that they were mean.”

Riverside Police Deputy Chief Mike Brown said an investigation found that “nothing had been brought to the attention of the school staff by (Paul) or any of his friends that he was being bullied,” Brown said. “Nothing was brought to our attention.”

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Brown said he supports the idea of the confidential reporting system that is similar to a police department tips hotline.

“I think that’s a great idea. We see it with adults. Unfortunately they are hesitant to get involved and they don’t want to report something or have their name associated with something. By having an anonymous tip system in place, it alleviates that concern by the person,” Brown said.

Jenny Birtle, the spokeswoman for Mad River Schools, agreed.

“Kids sometimes don’t want to talk about it. They’re afraid to talk about it,” she said.

The new reporting system gives them another option.

PublicSchoolWORKS, a Cincinnati-based company, provides the bully reporting system to about 270 school districts in Ohio, including Mad River. About 100 of them use the anonymous tool, vice president Tom Strasburger said.

He didn’t have statistics on how many bullying incidents have been reported through the company’s system since they started offering the service seven years ago, but he noted, “adults are using the system to report also.”

Birtle gave this scenario: “If a parent sees a text message or overhears a conversation that their child or a friend is being bullied, they can go online and report it anonymously.”

Miamisburg High School Principal Craig Morris said his district has been offering a Safe Schools hotline for at least 15 years where anyone can leave anonymous tips for the school resource officer. At the end of the last school year, it added an online component where people can email the officer information related to bullying, violence, harassment or drugs.

“Anything at all they fear would be a detriment to being at the school,” said Morris, who mentioned the reporting system to parents and students at the freshman orientation Thursday.

“To me, that’s what it’s all about trying to provide an educational environment but also a safe place students can attend,” he said. With the reporting tool, “they wouldn’t necessarily have to walk into the principal’s office or our counselors’ office.”

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