Students who suffer or witness bullying at school in Napa have one more recourse now — send an anonymous text or message to Napa Police.
Under the new program, which began last month at high schools and middle schools in the Napa Valley Unified School District, students can send an anonymous text by dialing “Tip411,” and write “707 Safe” followed by the anonymous tip.
Napa Police Lt. Debbie Peecook, who receives the messages, said Napa Police have received 10 tips related with bullying and other safety issues since the program began. Tips are referred to school resource officers, school counselors, teachers and parents.
Flyers advertising Napa Police’s Tip411 as an anti-bullying tool have been posted in schools in Napa and American Canyon, according to the Napa County Office of Education, which is coordinating the Stand up! Speak Out! Stop Bullying! committee.
The committee is a coalition of 14 educators, police and community leaders that developed the new program to give students a new avenue to report bullying. Students can report incidents confidentially to a school counselor, teacher or school resource counselor or leave notes in drop boxes at schools, said Laura Mooiman, a school social worker for the Napa Valley Unified School District, and member of the committee that worked on the Tip411 project.
The Napa County Office of Education, which coordinates the work of the committee, used $1,000 to $2,000 in prevention grant funds to print 1,000 posters. The “Tip411” was an existing police program, which was expanded to focus on bullying issues at school, officials said.
The anti-bullying efforts may be expanded in the fall to include Upvalley schools. In the meantime, NCOE spokeswoman Seana Wagner said tips from Upvalley schools will not be ignored.
Bullying can be verbal, physical or via text or various social media. It may also be social such as excluding a student from groups or activities, according to the Napa County Office of Education.
Each day, 160,000 U.S. students nationwide refuse to go to school because they are afraid of their peers, according to national statistics provided by the education office.
The Stand up! Speak Out! Stop Bullying! committee was formed in August after parents and educators said bullying, particularly cyberbullying, was prevalent in Napa County, the education office said.
According to the California Healthy Kid Survey, 27 percent of high school juniors in Napa County in 2011 reported mean rumors or lies had been spread about them on the Internet. In the same survey, 42 percent of seventh-graders reported mean rumors or lies about them at school.
Schools can be a major force in reducing bullying, Barbara Nemko, Napa County superintendent of schools, said in a written statement.
She urges parents to discuss bullying with their children and to encourage students to use the available tools to anonymously report incidents they witness. “We can no longer stand by when some students are afraid to come to school because they are the targets of physical, verbal, or cyber abuse,” she said.
“Bullying continues to be an issue, especially as smartphone use increases,” Nemko added. “Cyberbullying is the issue we are watching most closely, and we will add additional questions regarding bullying and cyberbullying on the upcoming Fall 2013 California Healthy Kids Survey.”
The American Association of University Women started a task force on cyberbullying five years ago, said Sallyann Berendsen, a member of the task force. Berendsen is a retired math and computer teacher who gives free workshops on cyberbullying to teachers, parents and other residents. She began to study the problem after a friend of hers reported her son had been bullied at school in 2007.
“I think it is a great idea as long as each school has personnel who can respond timely to each report by investigating the circumstances of the incident or incidents and help both the person who was bullied and the bully,” Berendsen said of the new Tip411 program.
“When we were at American Canyon Middle School recently, the principal, Dan Scudero said that if they could know about any bullying situation, they could respond to it successfully but often the information doesn’t reach the administration. It is also important for students to know when to use Tip411 and when not to use it,” said Berendsen.
“Often cyberbullying is done at home. Parents need to understand how it can be done and what they can do to stop it. They also need to recognize the signs in their children that might suggest there is a problem such as a reaction to bullying or cyberbullying,” Berendsen said.
As part of the ongoing bullying campaign, the Stand up! Speak Out! Stop Bullying! committee has invited experts to speak on the issue. Teachers and parents have participated in two workshops on cyberbullying.
The Napa Valley Unified School District, which oversees public schools in Napa, Yountville and American Canyon, has adopted a program geared to prevent violence in schools known as “Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support.”
The latest Healthy Kids Survey reported a 34 percent increase in the number of high school juniors feeling safe at school since 2009, according to the school district.