Parent Teacher Magazine Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools May/June 2018 - Page 5

A protected way to report bullying New CMS platform allows anonymity for students, staff and parents As part of its wide-ranging effort to prevent bullying, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools launched a new digital platform April 20 that allows anonymous reporting. The platform, accessible on each school’s website as well as the district’s home page, offers a user- friendly way for students, staff and the public to report bullying concerns. The anonymous reporting is part of the Charlotte- Mecklenburg Schools initiative to prevent bullying by encouraging students to “Stand Up and Speak Out.” The CMS program has been used as a model by other school districts. At a media briefing to announce the platform’s launch, Dr. Clayton Wilcox, superintendent of CMS, said that the district has an obligation to prevent bullying and to provide avenues to report it when it happens. “Our kids need us to support them – not just academically but in their mental and physical health too,” he said. “Bullying by anyone, anywhere in CMS will not be tolerated. We want people to stand up and say, ‘This is not acceptable.’ Bullying affects schools far more than we realize.” Dr. Wilcox was joined by Dr. Cotrane Penn, the executive director of student services. “We know bullying is a pervasive challenge,” Dr. Penn said. “There are lots of domino effects of bullying.” She said that bullying doesn’t just damage the victim; those who observe it are also affected by it. The new platform provides complete anonymity for anyone who wants to remain anonymous, she said, removing some of the fear and risk associated with reporting bullying. “The anonymous-reporting platform is simple but it does include the critical questions that will allow thoughtful reflection and documentation,” said John Concelman, the district’s bullying- prevention specialist. “It is truly anonymous. If the person reporting wishes to identify themselves, there is a place on the digital form for that, but it’s optional.” Concelman said that he will review each report and determine what action needs to be taken. “Our experiences in working with students across the district have shown us that students want to stand up and speak out but sometimes are afraid that it will go wrong,” he said. “In addition, students and families sometimes don’t know who to go to, or fear that reporting will make them a target or be labeled a tattletale.” The new platform extends the district’s commitment to making all schools safe and welcoming, said Dr. Clayton Wilcox, superintendent. “We are absolutely committed to student safety and peace of mind when they’re in school,” Wilcox said. “The ability to report without fear of reprisal is an important part of protecting all students and families.” He also said that he gets two to three calls each week from parents with bullying concerns. Once the program is well established, reports will be received at the school level by the principal or a designee, Concelman said, and the reports will also be sent to him to quickly offer support for school- level interventions. Principals received training and information about the new platform early in March. Questions about the new platform can be directed to preventbullying@cms.k12.nc.us. Parent Teacher Magazine • May/June 2018 • 3