Parents using online service to report bullying in Howard schools

Jess Nocera
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

Hundreds of reports of bullying or unsafe activities have been reported to the Howard County over the past three years through an online application.

Sprigeo, a website and app, allows students and parents to send reports of bullying and other incidents to the school system 365 days a year.

Since January, 150 reports have been submitted. In 2017, the school system received 197 Sprigeo reports and there were 208 in 2016. The reports are counted by calendar year.

“What we have really ramped up is awareness for our young people, if they are bullied or harassed, that here are all the different ways to report that,” said schools Superintendent Michael Martirano at Wednesday’s quarterly meeting between the County Council and school board.

Most reports are submitted by parents during the evening or on weekends, according to Caroline Walker, executive director for program innovation and student well-being in the 58,000-student school system. During summer months, most reports came from students.

Councilwoman Jen Terrasa said she was surprised to learn mostly adults are submitting the reports through Sprigeo.

“This is the tool of choice for kids,” Terrasa said as she picked up her cellphone. “I liked to urge you [the school system] to do more,” in having students use Sprigeo.

The school system has several outlets for students to report a bullying or harassment incident, including filling out a paper or electronic bullying form, telling a teacher or staff member or contacting the school system through social media accounts, according to Martirano.

The largest percentage of reports come from the middle school level, followed by elementary schools and high schools, according to Walker.

While most incidents occur in a classroom setting, reports have been submitted about events on a school bus, in the school hallways, at recess and in the cafeteria.

The Spriego reports are monitored by three school system employees who send the information to school principals..

The school systems follows through with all reports and conducts an investigation, Walker said.

If a report does not fall under the school system’s authority, it is sent to the appropriate jurisdiction, according to Martirano.

The form can be filled out anonymously, however more than 90 percent of students submit the report with their name, according to the school system’s website.

Sprigeo will cost the school system $7,500 this year.

Last week, Gov. Larry Hogan announced a new tip line and mobile app to report potential threats at schools as part of the new Safe Schools Maryland initiative.

The Safe Schools Maryland Tip Line is an anonymous reporting system that accepts tips at all hours. The information collected will be shared with appropriate school system officials and staff, law enforcement personnel and emergency and medical staff, according to the Hogan administration.

Howard County students can use any of the avenues provided when seeking to report an incident.

“There’s no wrong door,” said Jahantab Siddiqui, chief communications officer for the school system.

With reporting from The Associated Press

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