Crisis Prevention by E-mail

November 15, 2006 1 min read

Getting teenagers to talk about their problems or their worries about classmates is no easy task. But Westfield High School in Houston has come up with a method its officials think may make some inroads with a generation immersed in instant messaging and MySpace. With the help of a communication firm, the school has set up a private Web site to which students can e-mail anonymous tips about their own or their peers’ issues. The system then provides regular reports to help the school’s staff address trouble spots—bullying and self-mutilation being the greatest last year. Students’ identities are revealed only when they have written about harming themselves or others, according to officials. An assistant superintendent for counseling in a neighboring school district voiced skepticism about whether e-mail messages can be as effective as one-on-one discussions with students. But she acknowledged that school counselors today are often too overloaded—in part with administrative tasks related to standardized testing—to meet with every student. Westfield students, meanwhile, appear to be optimistic about the Internet tip line. “I think it will be helpful,” said one senior. “Now people might be afraid to do some stuff at this school.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.