Six Kern County, Calif., school districts are piloting anti-bullying software that allows trained student ambassadors to electronically report incidents of bullying.
The goal, according to education officials, is to simplify the existing reporting system.
Seven local schools -- Bakersfield High School, Golden Valley High School, Taft High School, Tehachapi High School, Greenfield Middle School, Lincoln Junior High School and Rosedale Middle School-- are piloting the Safe School Ambassadors app as part of a national anti-bullying program, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools office announced this week.
Schools started testing the technology, which is free for local schools this year, in February.
The software will cost about $300 per local site next year -- said Rob Meszaros, spokesman for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools.
Local feedback, gathered through May, will inform design for the app, which could reach more than 1,500 public and private school sites across 32 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and Canada.
Those sites are part of an anti-bullying program that more than 45 Kern County school sites have implemented in grades four through 12 called Safe School Ambassadors.
Educators described Safe School Ambassadors as an evidence-based strategy to reduce bullying. The accompanying software allows each student ambassador to classify an incident of bullying or mistreatment in one of six different categories: exclusion, put down, physical, intimidation, act against campus such as litering and other. Students can also specify how they responded to the incident and intervened.
At BHS -- a school with about 2,800 pupils -- only 80 students are trained to use the software but few have used it.
Tiffani Alvidrez, a counselor and Safe School advisor at Bakersfield High, said she counted eight reports since March.
Safiyyah De Souza, a senior in the BHS Safe School Ambassadors program, said she has gotten so used to intervening and mediating during incidents that reporting them slips her mind.
Maria Rosas, a BHS senior who is not a part of Safe School Ambassadors, said she does not think the app is necessary because students should already know to tell an adult if they are being bullied.
The problem is they don't, added Alexis Caudillo, another BHS senior who is not part of the program. They don't want to get caught "snitching."
"People might mess with them even more," she said.
©2014 The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, Calif.)