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Richmond County schools battle bullying with emergency tip line

Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 6:52 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - From bullying to plans of violence or even mental health concerns, Richmond County schools have a new way for students, parents, and teachers to report concerns anonymously.

It’s an anonymous tip line that students can call or submit through their phones. The school district says they recognize bullying is an issue, but they say they’re trying to get on the front end of it.

Bullying has always been a harsh reality for schools.

“There’s going to be bullying. There’s going to be things happen no matter where you’re at,” Dr. Ed Sanderson with the school system said.

But one that kids like Sierra Hall know is all too real.

“In our lunch period, we were harassed,” Hall said.

It’s why the district says they’ve created a platform for anyone to report wrongdoings inside of schools, to report anonymously.

“Some kids are obviously fearful that they may get some retaliation if they report something from another student,” Sanderson said.

The tips go through a call center manned by trained mental health professionals. They sort the tips into three categories: standard, urgent, or critical.

Standard tips like bullying get emailed to the school and district. Urgent tips like a report of a planned fight prompt a call to the district. Critical tips like a threat of a school shooting go right to law enforcement.

“If we can prevent it before it actually gets out of hand, and if students can feel empowered to tell someone,” Sanderson said. “It may save some other student from being bullied or that student that made the call.”

Hall says she’s still a bit skeptical. She says a letter she wrote to her school and the Board of Education didn’t result in any action.

“In my experience, I wasn’t an anonymous reporter,” Hall, a former student said. “I am a face, I am a student at the school, and you cannot make time to address these issues that I have presented to you.”

But a new resource to combat violence or wrongdoings can’t hurt.

“We’ll just have to wait and see to see if this kind of gets them to focus more on their students than their stats,” Hall said.

All-in-all, this program is costing the school district about $19,000 dollars, but they say it’s going to be funded through a grant they received from the Department of Justice.

The line is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. All reports are directed to a staffed SPRIGEO call center which provides the reports to school administrators.

To make a report, call 706-828-1077, submit a report online at http://rcboe.info/TipLine, or download the SPRIGEO app in the Apple Store or Google Play store.

The district says nothing is off-limits when it comes to the severity of a tip

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