Technology Update

Software Program Aims to Combat Bullying

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An Australian company is trying to interest U.S. schools in a new tool to combat bullying: an online voting system that lets students identify bullies.

Bully Beater was first marketed this summer in the United Kingdom, where about 20 schools subscribed to it, said Dominic Swinn, a spokesman for Sydney-based BigPulse, which created the tool. The company is now trying to interest U.S. and Australian schools in the product. Schools using the subscription service list all students alphabetically online. Using a password assigned to them, students “vote” for peers who have been bullies to them or to others. Only school staff members can see who gets the votes and who voted. A companion poll allows students to identify the types of bullying they’ve experienced.

BigPulse representatives hope the system will make children more likely to report bullying than if they had to do so in person at school. Allowing staff members to see which students cast votes helps protect against malicious reports, they said.

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Read more about Bully Beater.

Some experts greeted the product with caution. Mark Weiss, the education director of Operation Respect, a New York City-based nonprofit group that works on school climate issues, said handling bullying must be part of a more complex endeavor to involve students and staff members in actively building trust and respect.

Mr. Swinn said the company knows “it’s not an answer to the whole problem, but it could hopefully act as a deterrent.”

He noted that schools can use the company’s School Poll service, of which Bully Beater is one part, to set up online surveys to gather feedback on pertinent issues, from lunchroom cuisine to harassment at school.

Vol. 25, Issue 44, Page 15

Published in Print: August 9, 2006, as Software Program Aims to Combat Bullying
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