School District uses tipline to ensure staff and student safety
Safety is one of the main priorities for any school district. Specifically at School District of Sheboygan Falls, extensive measures have been taken to monitor potential bullying, self-harm and harm to others. While these measures are able to assist with these issues on school grounds, concerns can arise outside of school. When these concerns do arise, it is important that they are reported and dealt with accordingly.
The District is currently using a program known as SafeSchools Alert. The state of Wisconsin will soon implement a statewide tipline, but Sheboygan Falls has had its reporting tool in place since 2013. According to their official website, Safe Schools Alert allows individuals to “confidentially report safety concerns, including bullying, harassment, mental health concerns, weapons, and threats of violence to [their school’s] administration”. It also allows reporters to choose to remain anonymous and can be used 24/7.
The District has placed links to the tipline in several places on its main website. On the main home page, it can be found just below the scrolling photos, marked by an exclamation point icon in the quick links bar. It can also be found under both the student resources and family resources tabs, listed on the top of the site marked with a lifesaver icon. Once the icon is clicked, the reporter can choose how they would like the report delivered. The individual can choose between delivering their tip directly from the website, through a text message, by email, or by making a phone call.
School officials have found uses for SafeSchools beyond simply reacting accordingly to reports. Brian Berlin, the associate principal at Sheboygan Falls High School, handles SafeSchools at the high school level. He uses this program in combination with others as a way to monitor both behavior and safety online. “I use SafeSchools for student safety,” Berlin explains. “I get alerts for violations of our Acceptable Use policy, for safety alerts, and on anything relating to drugs, violence, or sexual activity. Then, I use that as information to counsel or meet with students.”
Whenever a concern is reported, school officials work together to address them. Superintendent Jean Born, says that every report at all three of our schools is taken very seriously. “We follow up on every single report, even if it doesn’t seem realistic,” she explains. “Everyone is taken seriously, every [report] is investigated, and whatever resolution needs to happen from it. I think it’s opened lines of communication. I think it’s shown students that if you’re going to report, we’re going to take it seriously and we’re going to follow up on it.”
When students or parents alert a school official through the reporting program, several administrators at the District will receive an alert. After district administration receives the report, they report to the principal of the building where the complaint originates, as well as Born. The team works together to create a course of action, which includes figuring out who else needs to be contacted and potential consequences for students. These plans differ depending on what was reported. According to Born, “Every situation is taken by itself, individually, even if multiple people report on the same incident, we look at them all individually.”
On November 26th, 2018, SafeSchools Alert released a free mobile app for Apple and Android devices. The School District of Sheboygan Falls will soon be releasing a mobile app of their own, which will include a link for users to report through the program. These steps in making this tool more accessible are important to ensuring the security of students and staff alike.
“Student Safety is the number one priority every single day,” Berlin expresses. “We want people to learn[...] and become better people, but also number one, we are responsible for the safety of kids and staff. SafeSchools Alert is an extremely useful tool to ensure that is happening to the best of our ability.”
Submitted by student journalist Mary Hammarlund