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Oklahoma City Public Schools bully hotline lets community 'stand for the silent'

More than 150 reports have been made to the new Oklahoma City Public Schools bullying hotline, which launched Aug. 1.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Modified: September 2, 2012 at 11:54 pm •  Published: September 3, 2012

“The program is going to give us that accountability,” Alvarez said.

Sometimes, an investigation may yield nothing, and no action can be taken, Alvarez said. But the district can now show that the claim was investigated.

Staff members can even create alerts to remind them to follow up with students who need further help.

Alvarez said she hopes the community will continue reporting problems. The system can be used by parents, social workers, family friends, juvenile judges — anyone.

About two-thirds of the reports have come from school employees, and the other third have come from the community, Alvarez said.

One report came from a social worker from the Department of Human Services, Alvarez said. A girl who lives in a group home was being kicked during dance class. Now, instead of the girl suffering in silence, an entire team of school officials knows about the problem.

Chance to speak up

The new system gives students a chance to speak up for themselves and friends, said Stacey McMillian, who teaches sophomore English at Southeast High School and invited Kirk Smalley to speak at the school.

“For students, the idea of talking to parents or teachers can be intimidating,” McMillian said.

“It is important that students have an outlet when they think no one else around them understands.”

This year, McMillian taught a section on bullying before moving on to teach about the Holocaust. Students learned about the different types of bullying.

“They think about physical abuse, but there's so much more,” McMillian said.

A group of McMillian's students said bullying should be at the forefront for students.

“You don't know what your words will mean to somebody,” sophomore Indica Hawkins said.

Sophomore Daisy Zaldivar agreed. “You don't know what's going on in somebody's life.”

Markel Dozier, another sophomore, said he was bullied for being overweight when he was in elementary school.

After hearing Smalley speak, Dozier said he hopes it will inspire more of his classmates to put an end to bullying.

“If they see something they don't like,” he said, “stand up for that person.”