Former BYU student helps stop bullying and hazing
By Nathanael Harward – 6 Nov 2008
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A former BYU student’s startup company is helping Utah schools comply with an anti- bullying and hazing bill Gov. Hunstman signed earlier this year.
Justin Bergener started SchoolTipline to provide a modern system that allows students to anonymously report bullying or hazing.
Bergener said his business idea came to him during his sociology and business studies at BYU. His coursework provided a foundation for the pilot program he would later start on his own. His now burgeoning business contracts with 10 Utah schools.
“I got a lot of overlap in what I was researching and what I was going to school for,” Bergener said.
Lehi Junior High was one of the pilot schools last year.
Judy Runolfson, a principal at Lehi Junior High, studied school violence while earning a doctoral degree in education from BYU. She said she decided to participate in the pilot program because she felt it would work.
Runolfson said sometimes staff at Lehi Junior High wonder why students let some bullying go unreported. She said she understands students can be uncomfortable coming into an office to report.
SchoolTipline provides an alternative.
“It’s a timely mode of operation,” Runolfson said. “Students are comfortable with the online system.”
Lehi Junior High receives about five tips each month and they are able to resolve the issues quickly, she said.
After students submit tips online, SchoolTipline allows school administrators to send students a response through the system, inviting them to come forward with additional information necessary to resolve each case.
A review of the system and its protective measures is available at schooltipline.com.
Runolfson said her staff must be careful with the system. “You can’t accuse someone unless you know the circumstances.”
In response to a recent report, Runolfson visited with a reported bully and verified the information. She then met with the bully’s parents and resolved the issue.
In March 2008, Gov. Huntsman signed HB 325 after it passed in the Utah Legislature. The bill mandates “On or before September 1, 2009, each school board shall adopt a bullying or hazing policy.”
Among the bill’s enumerations is a clause mandating schools implement “procedures allowing for anonymous reporting of bullying, hazing, or retaliation.”
Copyright Brigham Young University 6 Nov 2008