With more attention being paid to the potentially tragic effects of bullying, particularly online, Burbank Unified has resurrected a hotline for students to report abuse.

As students prepare to return from summer break, Tom Steele, director of student services, said he printed 1,000 fliers with the hotline's phone number and email that will hang in every classroom in the district, from kindergarten through high school.

The hotline has been six months in the works, and comes after new cyber-bullying laws have been created to support California students. The line recalls one created for reporting bullying that was last operable in 2006.

Now, with increased awareness of bullying, Steele said, the hotline is back in business.

“Burbank doesn't have any more or any less [bullying] than any other place,” said Burbank Unified school board member Roberta Reynolds. “We just need to be very vigilant.”

The hotline also is borne out of an ongoing bullying discussion on how parents, teachers and administrators handle the consequences of student behavior on digital platforms, particularly social media websites.

A lot of that discussion has taken place during meetings of the Mayor's Youth Task Force, Steele said.

“Back when I was a child, bullying was one-on-one. It's more that the style of bullying has gone to the electronic age. Once it's out there, it's out there,” with students able to send mass text messages and post anonymous remarks online, he said.

When students call, the report falls into Steele's hands. If a student calls the line to report online comments, the district will contact the Internet site's administrator “to find out what is going on and see if there is a way to solve that issue,” Steele said.

While administrators and teachers currently handle the bulk of complaints from students, officials hope the hotline will generate more reports.

“Hopefully, things that aren't getting reported will,” Steele said.

The next challenge may be getting students to feel comfortable coming forward, but Tom Kissinger, director of elementary education for the district, said he believes that calling in and writing complaints can be easier on parents and students.

“Sometimes kids may be fearful that other kids will find out they're making a report,” he said. “That's one of the benefits.”

The new bullying hotline is (818) 729-4589. Or students may send an email to StopBullying@burbankusd.org.
 
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