Bridg-It: A New Approach to Halt Bullying
Bridg-it allows school principals and moderators to track who is bullying whom. In this diagram (left), we could see that Henri Jones is bullying Francois Gaitan and Daisy Lee, and is bullied by Margarita Garcia. By understanding the chain of events, school personnel could individualize restorative solutions for each student in Bridg-it’s Resource Center (right).
New York City educators and community leaders have expressed great concern regarding the realities of teenage bullying and harassment in the five boroughs in the last few years. The widely publicized story this September of a relentlessly bullied 18-year-old who stabbed his two 16-year-old bullies, one fatally, at the Bronx Urban Assembly High School is devastating. This situation underscores the priority of developing new and effective strategies to ameliorate the effects of bullying in NYC schools.
Educators are also starting to recognize the raw numbers of teenage bullying, cyber bullying, and harassment incidents across the country.
Just as disheartening is the lack of consistent restorative responses by teachers, administrators, and parents to bullying. Punitive only accountability has proved ineffective, and further exacerbates the bullying syndrome for the bully and the victim.
For the past six years, the management and programming team of Bridg-it LLC have been creating and developing a school climate improvement platform with a focus on restorative practices and processes to reduce the number of bullying and harassment incidences among K-12 students. Bridg-it was founded by Jeffrey Ervine, a former Wall Street risk management professional and hedge fund executive, who personally experienced cyber defamation over a period of years. As a result, Ervine and his team (consisting of academics, lawyers, educators and social workers) have created a revolutionary school safety platform which utilizes student-sourced behavioral data to identify student needs in real-time. Using the native iOS, Android or web-based app, students can report bullying and harassment to their principal and counselors confidentially 24/7. Once school authorities receive the filed report, they investigate the alleged situation within 48 hours and determine the restorative follow-up steps for the bully, victim, and any witnesses.
To undergird the restorative process further, the Bridg-it platform also consists of an electronic Resource Center of over 2,500 books, videos, games, articles, lesson plans, discussion questions, local crisis center and support group websites for teachers, students, and families to read and reflect on bullying. In sum, the restorative nature of the educational materials in the Resource Center comprise a comprehensive social emotional curriculum for K-12 usage.
The Bridg-it platform also includes an electronic feature for students to text and receive “shout-outs” to and from their classmates to highlight and encourage their school-related achievements.
Finally, Bridg-it maintains an extensive data-base of students’ filed reports by school to provide for behavioral data for building leaders in real time. These analytics provide a mega-view of report characteristics including students’ gender, race, age, grade level, specific type of bullying incidents and effectiveness of each restorative practice utilized from the Bridg-it Resource Center. Armed with this ever-evolving trend data, school leaders are able to make more informed decisions regarding their policies and practices on bullying and development of school climate. Statistics on bullying, cyberbullying, and other at-risk childhood and adolescent behaviors are on the rise nationally,
Bridgit’s pilot middle school in Brooklyn’s District 21 can boast an overall 75% reduction of in-school incidences after three full years of implementation. With a highly diverse student body of over 1350 students, grades 6-8, the school has seen improvement in the all important areas of attendance and academics.
Its principal, Dominick D’Angelo of IS228, maintains that Bridg-it has been instrumental in building an overall positive school climate. He believes that students feel more safe to use their Bridg-it tools to voice and handle their classmates’ negative/at-risk behaviors as well as acknowledge and reward their positive actions. NYC Eyewitness ABC News recently heralded Bridg-it as a “potential lifesaver for kids who have been bullied.”
Founder Ervine views the platform’s outcomes optimistically. He believes that Bridg-it has contributed to the positive and promising results in the pilot school. During the 2017-2018 academic year, the Bridg-it platform will be implemented in additional middle and high schools in NYC, Long Island, Montana, California, and an experimental cohort in Santiago, Chile. Ervine feels there is every reason to believe that Bridg-it’s effects will be similarly productive.#
Dr. Michael Gillespie is a retired dean of Academic Affairs at Borough of Manhattan Community College. He is currently Chief Academic Officer of Bridg-it, LLC.