Students to have new outlet for reporting concerns at school

September 10, 2013

By Neil Pierson

Students aren’t always comfortable reporting the problems they’re facing at school, so administrators in the Issaquah School District are trying something new to get them talking.

By the end of September, the district’s five middle schools and four high schools plan to implement Talk About It, a Web-based communications tool that will allow students to post comments while remaining anonymous.

Sena Camarata, assistant principal at Skyline High School, said the program should foster an environment where “students have a voice that they can share with administrators in their building if they have concerns about what’s going on at their school.”

The district has specific procedures in place to combat bullying, sexual harassment, domestic abuse and homelessness. However, students may not report those problems to a teacher or administrator because they fear the consequences.

Camarata, who came to Skyline July 1 after serving as dean of students at Hazen High School in Renton, said she has seen many instances in which students kept quiet.

“At my previous district, we also faced situations where students are either concerned about the image it might portray or that they’re ratting people out,” she said. “They’d rather bring issues up anonymously in some cases.”

While the program will generally maintain anonymity, there are exceptions.

“Comments are kept private except in extreme cases,” a district news release stated. “If a student is in danger of being harmed, harming someone else or threatening school property, school officials can ask Talk About It to reveal the student’s identity and can then take an appropriate course of action.”

Once Talk About It is up and running, students will be able to access it at all hours — with the exception of school breaks — at Students can use a Facebook or Google account to access the system, or create a unique username and password. They’ll also be able to use their cellphones to text comments to a five-digit number.

Once in the system, students will be able to choose topics from a drop-down menu — things like bullying, threats, bus transportation problems or homework concerns. Students will be able to choose whether to send their comments anonymously or not.

“Schools that have used Talk About It report that more often than not, students do choose to reveal their identity and those that initially choose to be anonymous often identify themselves once the conversation has started and they become more comfortable,” the district news release stated.

The district said administrators will respond to messages Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Messages sent at other times will typically be dealt with the next school day. Talk About It isn’t a “crisis line,” the district said. Students will are asked to call 911 with emergency information.

Students found to be misusing the system will have their Talk About It accounts deactivated.



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One Response to “Students to have new outlet for reporting concerns at school”

  1. Good grief on September 11th, 2013 10:48 am

    Because it’s not like students could write something on a piece of paper and drop it into a slot on a box or something; no, we have to make them give personal information (which is specially protected by federal law) to a for-profit company*, to sign up for an online service, that promises some vague form of “anonymity” (but it seems clear that it won’t be any trouble to find out who said what).

    Is this going to turn out to be Issaquah’s version of the webcam debacle? I sure hope not.

    * Such information almost always gets turned into marketing lists, no matter what its original purpose was. Even if School Messenger doesn’t intend to do this now – and I for one am not willing to assume that they don’t – business people always think of these user databases as valuable assets and will sooner or later try to monetize them. It’s what they’re trained to do.

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