Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Text Counseling: Tulsa Schools Introduce Anonymous Electronic Communications

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Text Counseling: Tulsa Schools Introduce Anonymous Electronic Communications

Article excerpt

Young people need someone to talk to when trouble occurs. But they are not always comfortable talking face-to-face with an adult.

Tulsa Public Schools has contracted with a Mississippi-based company that invented a method of communication that most tweeners, those 11- and 12-year-olds, and teenagers recognize.

AnComm's "Talk About It" program puts troubled students in touch with counselors that can help, said AnComm President Carter Myers. Users access an online system that includes a cell phone for texting. Texts are sent without any of the user's identifying features and routed to counselors - ensuring anonymity. There is an exception to students' anonymity, however, when they threaten to harm themselves, others or school property. The company said that of the 40,000-plus messages AnComm has facilitated in more than 400 school districts, less than 1 percent crossed the threshold where anonymity needed to be breached.

"You watch students with cameras, have them walk through metal detectors, but at some point we have to tell students, 'it is your school, your climate, you need to step up and take responsibility for it," Myers said.

AnComm directs electronic communication with a specific individual at the school who "has been put in place to ensure the student makes a good decision," Myers said. "Counselors arrange to meet the student face-to-face in a way that is more comfortable for the student."

TPS used federal Safe Schools funding to set up "Talk About It" in Tulsa. Bringing the program to the district grew out of a bullying task force coordinated last April by Tenna Whitsel, TPS coordinator of secondary student services. The task force was comprised of educators, parents and community members, issued a comprehensive anti-bullying plan and recommended use of an anonymous reporting system.

"This will be available for all middle and high schools in the district this year," said Whitsel. …

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