Students at Toronto Catholic high schools will soon be able to submit their concerns about bullying with just a tap of a finger.
The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) is rolling out the Anonymous Alert app to all of its secondary schools starting next month.
The program allows students to anonymously message to their school’s principal on a range of issues, including bullying, weapons and other safety concerns.
“It’s simply a tool for students to use if, for whatever reason, they don’t feel comfortable reporting to a caring adult,” Nadia Adragna, of the TCDSB’s Safe Schools department, explained.
The app’s development came out of the board’s annual Safe Schools Report – that composes its findings from a survey that students fill out each year.
The 2015-2016 findings revealed 18 per cent of secondary students have been bullied one to three times that academic year. Only 27 per cent said they reported the incidents to school staff.
Video: How the new TCDSB’s Anonymous Alert app works. To view on mobile click here.
For those witnessing bulling, rates of coming forward were even lower. The survey found 25 per cent of students reported witnessing bulling, despite nearly half saying they saw or heard a form of bullying in school.
Faye Mishna, a professor and dean of social work at the University of Toronto and contributor to PREVnet, Canada’s authority on bullying prevention, said all too often kids don’t come forward until bullying reaches a critical point.
“We have to make it easy for kids to tell, not necessarily anonymously, but to tell before it’s a big deal,” Mishna said.
The TCDSB’s pilot project of the Anonymous Alert app showed similar student reactions.
Of the three schools involved in a two-month test period, only five student complaints were submitted.
“For some reason they’re not telling. It could be that they’re scared it’s not anonymous,” Mishna said. “I think a lot of times a lot of the stuff has become normalized.”
The app will be made available to all Catholic high school students on March 1.