A new Internet-based tool has proved a valuable addition when it comes to keeping the peace this year in the halls at Rosemount High School.
Called Rosemount Confidential, the form on the high school's main web page gives students and parents a way to report concerns at the school without having to sit down with a teacher or a principal. They just answer a few questions -- What is your concern? Who does it involve? -- then click submit. The form goes to a school administrator, who routes it to either another administrator or the school's police liaison officer. There are no names. There's no contact information. The school gets information about potential problems and the student stays anonymous.
Students have always had the option of talking in confidence with administrators, but they don't always feel comfortable with promises of anonymity. RHS administrative assistant Tim Conboy said some schools have offered 800 numbers students could call. Taking things online is simply a way to use new technology to accomplish much the same thing.
"A lot of schools in the state do have this and, generally speaking, the kind of reports that schools get are associated with drugs," Conboy said. "There's a few that are associated with weapons, but not many. Most of it's associated with drugs or potential fights."
District 196 secondary education director Mark Parr said the district was approached by police departments about providing a confidential reporting tool for students and their parents. Eagan High School has had a system in place for a few years and it's led to some arrests. Rosemount, which created its own form rather than contracting with an outside company, launched its system at the start of the school year in September.
"Generally it isn't anything that yields anything big time because there isn't anything big time going on, but every now and then we'll get something serious," Parr said.
Rosemount High School's version of the reporting form, found under a "Rosemount Confidential" link on the school's main page, was explained to students and parents at the beginning of the school year. It hasn't gotten a lot of use so far -- Conboy estimates there have been fewer than 10 reports -- but it has proved valuable when it's been used.
"We have received information and been able to be proactive," Conboy said. "We prevented a couple of fights from occurring, which is a good thing. We've actually been able to resolve some student-to-student conflicts with mediation, which we might not have been able to do."
Conboy said the school was also able to provide chemical health assistance to one student and that student's family.
Parr said the district is in the process of testing the reporting systems to see how they work.
The form isn't entirely anonymous. When reports are submitted the system records the reporter's IP address, which can be tracked. Conboy said the school will not us that information unless someone intentionally makes a false report.
In other words, pranksters beware.
So far, false reports haven't been a problem.
"I think people kind of understand that it does leave a footprint if they send something they shouldn't send," Conboy said. "I think (students) have got enough trust in our system that we've got no intention of trying to figure it out if they send a report for a legitimate reason."
It will just be between you and the computer.