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Viacom Chairman to fund Bullying Tip Line for Los Angeles schools


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Summer Redstone, the Chairman of Viacom, Inc., has donated $100,000 to the Los Angeles Unified School District for SchoolTipline. This is a texting platform to allow students to use their cellphones to report bullying, assaults, threats of violence, threats of suicide, the presence of guns or drugs on campus, and other behavior problems without identifying themselves. The article in the Los Angeles Times is here:

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-sumner-redstone-sponsors-antibullying-text-line-for-la-schools-20120618,0,3465701.story

Colin :icon_geek:

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Do most schools restrict phones in school? Or not? I don't have any idea. Maybe the kids can have them but aren't supposed to use them unless it's an emergency, something along that line. I was just wondering, if someone saw active bullying happening, whether he'd have a phone available to make the call, and additionally, would phoning bring attention to himself?

C

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This is great. I'm curious how they're going to ensure it doesn't backfire. I can just see Bull McBully all pissed off at Nerd McGeek and texting the service to say the Nerd McGeek has a nuclear bomb hidden in his locker. Then sitting back to watch the show.

I've been in a school during a false bomb threat before. It goes like this:

The school goes into lockdown.

The cops and the bomb dogs sweep the school.

No bomb is found.

The call is traced.

The false alarmist is taken off in cuffs.

In general, these kids get in so much trouble (criminal charges) that false bomb threats are very, very rare. Also, it's rarely the bullies that do things like this - it's more often victims of bullying looking for some way to feel powerful, get revenge, or simply shut down the school for a day or two as a way to escape their tormentors. If a bully has a problem with you, he'll probably just punch you in the head. It's the kids that feel too weak or intimidated to do face-to-face confrontation that end up finding these subtler ways of dealing with their enemies.

Do most schools restrict phones in school? Or not? I don't have any idea. Maybe the kids can have them but aren't supposed to use them unless it's an emergency, something along that line. I was just wondering, if someone saw active bullying happening, whether he'd have a phone available to make the call, and additionally, would phoning bring attention to himself?

Cell phones are pretty common. The rule in my school (and others in the area) is "Just don't use it during class." Recess? Lunch? Restroom? During passing periods, before, and after class? Sure. Some staff are hard about this, and take them away, but most will look the other way - bigger fish to fry, and all. And keep in mind, I'm in a K-8 school - they're even more common in high schools.

If there's bullying going on, there's a good chance five or six people in the area already have their phones out, texting others about it, videotaping it, facebooking about it, or simply texting/playing a game, completely oblivious to the anti-social behavior (or actively trying to ignore it and not get drawn in).

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Here's the thing about this hot-line, though:

Students get due process. Alleged bullies included. If an admin gets a report saying "Student X has been bullying student Y" - well, that's not actionable. The most schools can do is alert teachers to keep a closer eye on those two students...and if the bully was dumb enough to be carrying out his bullying in front of staff, he probably would have been caught already. Trying to suspend, expell, or even put the fear into a kid without an eye-witness report from a staff member (NOT a student) or an incident captured on tape leads to parents bringing in lawyers. An anonymous report to a third-party organization is pretty weak as far as evidence goes. Now, if a victim comes forward and says "X is bullying me," it's actionable...but, of course, the fear of retaliation stops those reports from ever reaching the office.

(There's probably a story in there, somewhere.)

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Thanks, EleCivil and Colin. Gee and Cole got my questions before I did.

I could wish for more active action (ironic wording there) but I can see why. And yes, someone with a chip on his/her shoulder making a false report to get some nice kid in trouble springs to mind.

How many prank calls will they get? Or calls that Johnny likes Suzy... or Jimmy? (Which could be trouble for Johnny, Suzy, and Jimmy, no matter who likes whom, or doesn't.)

What I've heard from teachers, parents, or teens I know is that cell phones are allowed in their schools, but like with EC, they're supposed to have them off during class. Actually using one in class varies, but some schools confiscate the phone, at least until the end of class.

While in community college, I had the shock of hearing something from a student, and it sounded like he *meant* it. So I reported it. Creeped me the heck out. I knew the teacher he was talking about. A couple of days later, there was an announcement, and everyone was to stay in their classrooms, a lockdown. Some time later, they gave an all-clear. No, I don't know what happened about the student. I'd expect he had disciplinary action against him. And yes, I played that carefully, cajoling him until I could excuse myself and leave. The level of intent and malice in his voice and body language, over a teacher was shocking. Totally unwarranted. And no, when someone's just joking around, they don't say the things that guy said, either. I think they'd waited until he was on campus next, just guessing. But yes, it was a threat of violent action, more than one kind. The guy wasn't the most socially skilled, but until he got on that topic (without prompting, by the way) I wouldn't have guessed. -- Wow, just realized that's been around eight years ago, give or take.

There have been a few cases in local and state news regarding students recording bullying and fights on their cell phones. That's included teachers behaving badly, but other cases were students recording things between students, not because they thought it was bad, but to brag about it. Other things have been students actually caring and reporting abuse, bullying, etc. -- So the goal is to get students to be compassionate, to think about others and be good people.

Bad when the kids are so proud of someone beating up another kid that they want to show it off and brag instead of report it. (The particular one I'm thinking of was girls fighting each other in a restroom. Sheesh.)

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Wow! Now, it's going to be much harder for me to hate Viacom. (I've been angry for years that they let a lot of great TV shows and movies sit on the shelf, forgotten and unseen by anybody.)

This is a fantastic idea, and I'm glad somebody has come forward to provide funding for it. It would be great if there were a service like this for every school in every city. I can tell you that the main reason I never reported the bullying I experienced or saw was totally because of embarrassment, for fear of being called a "stoolie," and the unwritten rule that kids don't necessarily tell their parents everything that's going on in their lives. But if it were purely anonymous, that would be great -- provided people don't abuse it and report people who are not bullies.

BTW, I again have to say, I salute EleCivil -- not just for being a terrific writer, but also for having the strength and dedication needed to be a teacher nowadays. My mom was a 5th grade teacher for more than 30 years, and when she retired in the 1980s for health reasons, I can remember her classes were a zoo back then. I can only imagine how challenging it is nowadays, at least in certain areas.

My understanding is that in LA schools, they will take away cell phones, pagers, and other devices if they're used during class, and not give them back to the kid until after school. I have no problem with kids using them inbetween classes or at lunch. Still, one of the great paradigm shifts of modern times is how obsessed everybody is with their smartphones. I was working on a film set this past weekend, and during a take, I looked up and saw about 50% of the crewmembers frantically texting, paging, surfing the net, and completely oblivious to what was going on. If I was the guy running the set, I'd say, "No Cellphone Use During Production... Period. We pay you to work, not to use your phone." But I'm just the sound guy.

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What I've heard from teachers, parents, or teens I know is that cell phones are allowed in their schools, but like with EC, they're supposed to have them off during class. Actually using one in class varies, but some schools confiscate the phone, at least until the end of class.

My personal cell phone policy goes like this:

If you forget to turn off your ringer and it rings in class, take it out and turn it off. No big deal unless you make it one.

The first time I catch you using it in class, I take it until the end of class.

If I catch you using it in class again, I keep it until the end of the day.

If I catch you using it in class a third time, I keep it until a parent/guardian comes to get it, and we have a quick conference to see if there's some kind of home emergency or other legitimate reason for the kid to need to be in constant contact. This has never happened - the threat of losing one's phone is enough to prevent that. Haha.

BTW, I again have to say, I salute EleCivil -- not just for being a terrific writer, but also for having the strength and dedication needed to be a teacher nowadays. My mom was a 5th grade teacher for more than 30 years, and when she retired in the 1980s for health reasons, I can remember her classes were a zoo back then. I can only imagine how challenging it is nowadays, at least in certain areas.

Haha, thanks. It can be crazy, but it's fun. I can't imagine being in a job where I'm not challenged daily. I was just discussing this today with some colleagues. One of them recently had to tackle a student in the street to keep him from getting shot in a random drive-by. We were laughing about how that kind of thing scares our parents/friends when we tell them about it, but to us, it's just another day. "Yeah, tackled a kid. Stopped a sexual assault. Oh, stay off the 2200 block for a few days - some idiot local set shot a Crip, so there'll be some bullets flying. Also, how are your lesson plans coming? You incorporating that new tech I set up for you?"

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I think this test is worth watching. The concern about a bully being able to get to the kid that turned him in doesn't appear likely in this scenario. The text messages are anonymous unless someone yells "bomb" and then the school can trace the phone that sent the message. So there's no way the bully can find the snitch.

If it proves to cut down on bullying, more schools will look at adopting a similar technology – unless they have an absolute "no cell phones" policy.

Colin :icon_geek:

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Haha, thanks. It can be crazy, but it's fun. I can't imagine being in a job where I'm not challenged daily.

I used to have a co-worker who had to deal with screaming clients, all kinds of conflicts, heated tempers, disastrous situations. I remember one in particular that I involved in, and he came in, immediately defused the moment, calmed everybody down, got the problem worked out, and we moved on. Later on, I said, "man, I don't see how you can be so cool and calm in situations like this." He laughed and said, "I'm like a fireman: I expect things to be bad, and I know every day there's going to be screaming matches and problems to solve."

For the rest of us who never deal with that, it seems miraculous! I really admire people who are unselfish enough to work as teachers, if only for their patience and grace under fire. (Literally!)

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Sumner Redstone could probably do more good in the fight against bullying if he'd quit donating money to Republicans who claim that curbs on bullying are infringements of their religious freedom. One hundred thousand dollars for an anti-bullying hotline is good, but its value to Redstone in positive PR is greater.

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