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OUR VIEW: Fortifying battle against bullying

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Attorney Ruth Schneider begins her talk on social media bullying and cyber-stalking at the Millikin University Commons in April 2019. The presentation was part of the university’s Civic Discourse Week activities.

We can all agree that bullying is awful. At best, it’s a nuisance and at worst a nightmare whose fallout lasts a lifetime.

Illinois’ new contribution to battling bullies is Safe2Help Illinois. The statewide school safety initiative is designed to encourage students to “Seek Help Before Harm.”

Safe2Help Illinois is available 24/7, and at no cost to all school districts in the state. In the absence of a trusted adult,

Students are encouraged to use a free app, text/phone, or the website Safe2HelpIL.com to share school safety issues in a confidential environment. Information obtained will remain confidential to ensure student privacy and to protect the integrity of the program. The program, a media release, is not intended to suspend, expel or punish students.

The information will be vetted and then shared with local school officials, mental health professionals and/or local law enforcement. The program also will help local officials by connecting them with mental health resources or other appropriate tools to intervene.

This effort requires the aggrieved to reach out. For some, that will be enough of a challenge, let alone recounting uncomfortable or dangerous situations. But it’s vital to make those students and their loved ones feel safe about reaching out to the help line.

The recognition of potential physical and mental health issues is critical to children’s safety. We’re well past the point of telling kids to “toughen up” – bullying is bullying, whatever form it takes. And when children are in the middle of misery, someone telling them “it gets better” is of little consolation.

We often find ourselves wondering what we can do to battle bullying and remove some obstacles from the lives of our children. Utilized properly, Safe2Help Illinois can be a hugely positive step.

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