Some middle school students are reluctant to report bullying to the school office for fear of becoming the bully’s next target. James Herring, a member of Sunnyslope Christian Reformed Church in Salem, Ore., has made it possible for students to report bullying at the touch of a button.
Herring, a Marion County sheriff’s deputy and school resource officer, created “Bullies Beware,” a texting program now in its second year.
Students may report a bullying incident by texting Herring or by sending him an email. Herring follows up on every report, notifies the parents of those involved, provides counseling, and holds the bully accountable. “The biggest reason for bullying is not because schools don’t have systems. Schools have zero tolerance. Kids are afraid of being called a snitch,” explained Herring.
Once the program was in place and bullies knew their actions could be reported by bystanders, retaliation decreased, allowing students to feel safe. This gave kids enough confidence to report bullying incidents directly to the school office. “This is the preferred way because [school staff] can deal with it immediately,” explained Herring.
Technology such as texting and Facebook has intensified bullying. In pre-Internet days, bullying incidents took place only at school. “Because of social networking, now with the push of a button I can send a degrading comment to a thousand friends,” said Herring. Text messages and social networking now have made bullying a 24-hour-a-day occurrence.
“You can use bullying as a teaching moment and help [kids] understand how words can hurt and kill people,” he said. “We have to work together as a community to keep one another safe.”