The Temecula Valley Unified School District is piloting a new online program this year at all the TVUSD middle and high schools that allows students and parents to anonymously report bullying with the click of a button.
The new system is called Sprigeo. All information sent through Sprigeo goes directly to school administrators through a secure online connection, and the name and email of the reporting party is kept anonymous if the reporting party wants to remain unknown. Students and parents can report bullies at home on their computer or from their smartphones.
“The goal is to open avenues to people who were reluctant or afraid to report or who didn’t know how to report,” said Michael Hubbard, TVUSD’s Director of Child Welfare and Attendance.
Hubbard said he learned about Sprigeo over the summer when he attended the sixth Annual “Girl Bullying and Other Relational Aggression” conference in Atlanta, which provides educators and others with resources, research findings and programs to combat bully.
Sprigeo CEO and Founder Joe Bruzzese, a former middle school teacher in Santa Barbara, held a session about Sprigeo. Hubbard brought the program back to TVUSD, which is piloting it this year at the middle and high schools.
Students send reports through the secure online form at www.sprigeo.com. School administrators receive the report details in a secure email the moment a student sends a report. Administrators can also access the reports through a secure online dashboard so they can identify trends in incident location, note follow-up action and create data reports.
As of Thursday, Sept. 13, Hubbard said TVUSD has received seven reports via Sprigeo; six were from students and one was from a parent. The reports go to a selected group of people at the school site, including the principal and at least one assistant principal or someone like a counselor. The school investigates the complaint and handles it from there, Hubbard said.
“The first complaint that I got came from a parent. It said a child was picking on her child…. She felt the child needed some adult supervision. They brought the child in and had a conversation,” he said, adding that often these incidents can be handled effectively by having school officials talk to and keep tabs on suspected offenders.
Hubbard said he also monitors the reports via the new online system to make sure the school site follows up on it. The cost was $275 per year, per school plus a one-time $100 installation fee, but TVUSD got a discount of installing it at multiple campuses, he said.
Joe Bruzzese says his system should help to create a culture of kindness on campuses.
“Now you’re being held being accountable. You don’t know who is watching you at your school site who may send in a report at Sprigeo,” he said in a televised interview, aired in March, with KEYT-TV in Santa Barbara.
According to the Sprigeo website, more than 95 percent of reports sent through the Sprigeo system have been confirmed as authentic requests for help with a bullying incident or school safety threat. Unlike text messages or Facebook posts that can be shared among students, all Sprigeo reports are viewable only by school administrators, minimizing the impact one student has to falsely accuse or abuse another student.
In a letter to Temecula Middle School parents and guardians that is posted on the TMS website, Principal Rob Sousa noted, “The number one reason why children do not report bullying or abuse is the fear of retaliation from their peers. The Sprigeo reporting form can be accessed from the privacy of a home computer or other Internet-equipped device, eliminating the possibility of being identified by another student.”
The program is a pilot for this year while district officials see how it works, Hubbard said.
The use of Sprigeo is one way in which TVUSD has stepped up efforts to stop bullying. School websites also have links to an anonymous phone hotline where students and parents can report bullying incidents by phone.
Another new anti-bullying program being implemented this year is “Because Nice Matters,” a program ongoing during the week of Sept. 24 at all TVUSD schools. Hubbard called it, “a Red Ribbon Week for bullying.” Schools will host activities that discourage bullying and educate students about its harmful effects. Students are encouraged to wear purple and black clothing – colors that represents bruising and injury.
“It’s one more way to get the word out to people that this stuff hurts,” Hubbard said.
Amy Bentley is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.