A Hotline to Help

By Nadia Crow, Reporter

Tools

By Aaron Hepker

WATERLOO, Iowa - In the world of bullying, there are multiple faces. There’s the bully, the bullied, and the bystander. Over the last two years, the Waterloo Community School District has developed tools to combat bullying. A new student led group influences students to stand up against violence. And an anonymous hotline gives bystanders a voice.

“How are you doing my man?” asked Waterloo East High School senior Wesley Bates. It’s just another day for Waterloo East High School senior Wesley Bates. “I have just been blessed to have been in a bunch of groups here at East High,” said Bates.

One is Mentors in Violence Prevention or MVP. Nominated student leaders present scenarios to their peers, teaching them how to be problem solvers.

“Our purpose is to inform these kids what to do in these scenarios and not to be bystanders,” said Bates.

Bystander: Merriam Webster Dictionary says it’s “a person present but not involved.” But in the bullying scenario, it’s someone who instigates or ignores bullying, according to the education development center.

“Students feel there maybe repercussions if it’s them telling an administrator that a fight is going to happen or something has transpired that they’re afraid of,” said Waterloo Community Schools District Student Services Specialist Julia Eckerman.

So the district set up a hotline 319-433-2081. It rings and anyone can leave an anonymous tip.

“I listen to those voice mails and then direct it back to the school and see how we can help the student,” said Eckerman.

“We’ve had teachers in a classroom call because maybe they didn’t know how to talk to their administrator about what they knew was going to be happening,” said Eckerman, “We’ve had grandparents call when their kids come home from school and talks to them about their day.”

District Student Services Specialist Julia Eckerman says with enough information left in a voice mail, they’ve been able to step-in before a fight happens or address an ongoing issue.

“It’s very helpful. As adults we don’t always have the same perception about what’s happening as the students do,” said Eckerman.

This school year, an incident occurred on Facebook between some Waterloo East high school students. “Racial comments and derogatory statements that shouldn’t have been said and then they wanted to put it on Facebook,” said Bates.

So MVP stepped into the classroom to talk to their peers.

“What are you supposed to do when you see these things, other than egg it on,” said Bates. Bates says MVP strives to teach his peers the ideal impact of the bystander. “They have as much power as the ones doing the bullying,” said Bates.

The hotline helps give everyone a voice.

“Hopefully at some point in time it would be the bystander to call on a more regular basis,” said Eckerman.

The hotline is for students, staff, and community members. Eckerman says it averages 70 calls a year. The goal is to increase student-staff-relationships with the hotline as backup.

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