ON MESSAGE: Andrew Playford, Owen Simpson, Mikala Wade-Ferrell, Nadine Janissen and Dominique Isaac.
ON MESSAGE: Andrew Playford, Owen Simpson, Mikala Wade-Ferrell, Nadine Janissen and Dominique Isaac. MIREILLE MERLET-SHAW

Bullies on the back foot

AN AUSTRALIAN first software system aimed at combating bullying in high schools will be launched at Ballina High School today.

The new Blackboard Connect T!P TXT system lets students send anonymous texts, alerting the high school of any instances of bullying, cyber bullying, self-harm, abuse, suicidal thoughts, domestic violence or mental health issues.

Andrew Playford, the Ballina High School teacher-librarian behind the anti-bullying incentive, described it as a way of holding perpetrators to account without the victims fearing possible retribution or embarrassment.

"It's a national issue," he said. "We want to get it out there that it's not okay to bully.

"We've got to try to give everyone a chance to talk about their needs and look for support."

Mr Playford said combating bullying was a particularly important issue with the rise of cyber bullying.

"It's not just physical bullying these days, it's the cyber bullying that's causing the problems," he said.

"It's about getting in before we know it's a problem."

Along with students, teachers, parents, family, friends and community members will also be asked to text in any issues they come across.

Text message senders automatically receive a reply to any message they send letting them know the text has been received.

The text is then processed by either the Ballina High School principal, deputies or Mr Playford, and then referred to the appropriate person or organisation.

This could include emergency services, school counsellors, school chaplains, year advisers or youth connect workers.

The system also scans each text for key words which, if triggered, can be forwarded onto emergency services immediately.

Measures will be taken to trace any prank texts back to the source.

The anonymous texting systems has already has success in both Britain and the US. Mr Playford said he would be presenting the T!P TXT system to more than 5000 educators from across the country at the upcoming EduTech conference in Brisbane in June.

The system will be trialled for one year.



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