Created on Thursday, 25 April 2013 Written by MANDY LOEHR
A padlocked black box was placed in a hallway at Bellefontaine Middle School this week with the potential to have an impact on student bullying, as it provides a new avenue to report the issue that is often kept under lock and key by its victims.
The Secret Box was put in place this week by the guidance office at Bellefontaine Middle School as a way for students to anonymously report instances of bullying. EXAMINER PHOTO | MANDY LOEHR
Local victim assistance programs have partnered with BMS to unveil this tool, called The Secret Box, as a result of a $500 grant received from the Department of Justice in recognition of National Crime Victim’s Week, which is this week.
BMS pupils will be able to report bullying anonymously by dropping a note in The Secret Box located by the guidance office.
The reporting party might have been a victim of bullying, or might have witnessed or heard about an incident of bullying involving a friend or classmate, said Lucreta Grogan, Bellefontaine City Prosecutor’s Office victim advocate/witness coordinator.
“Bullying is becoming a serious problem at schools around the country, and we wanted to give students an opportunity to open up and share what’s going on in their eyes without any fear.
“Hopefully, students will come forward and speak out.”
Her office was awarded the grant for the implementation of the program at area schools. The Secret Box Program also was sponsored in part by the two other victim assistance programs in the county, New Directions of Consolidated Care Inc. and the Logan County Prosecutor’s Office.
In addition, Hope Duran of New Directions built and painted the box that is in place at BMS.
Ms. Grogan said she was inspired to develop the idea for The Secret Box after hearing stories from her middle school dance students during her duties as a local dance instructor.
“We decided to talk about bullying one day with the students, which I thought might be a five-minute conversation. However, we ended up talking for about 45 minutes, and some of the things they told me were just heartbreaking,” she said.
“I was just blown away. I was surprised that no one had said anything before, as we are pretty involved in our students’ lives.
“It just stuck with me and I felt like I needed to do something.”
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Ms. Grogan then sprang into action and applied for the grant that recognizes National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which is dedicated to remembering, encouraging, supporting and honoring crime victims of all ages.
“Bullying is not a crime in itself, but it does leave victims — who are oftentimes left to deal with the hurtfulness of bullies alone simply because they are too afraid to report the bullying,” she said in a letter about the program to the Examiner.
Once students deposit a note in the box, Assistant Principal Matt Comstock personally is charged with checking the box at the end of each school day and then following up on the reports.
Mr. Comstock said the new initiative aligns well with the school’s current anti-bullying policy that allows for anonymous reporting of incidents. In addition, BMS students this year have formed an anti-bullying club to raise awareness by creating posters and other projects at their school.
“This is an ongoing issue that we’re trying to improve on,” the assistant principal said.
“I don’t receive a lot of bullying reports right now, but we’re hoping that the box will make the issue more visible for students and that the kids will realize this is a way they can help out. Hopefully it will get used.
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