Boston launches bullying hotline

No Bully spoke this week to Ed Donnelly, known to many as Boston’s anti-bullying czar.

How many public schools are there in Boston? 134.

How did you come to set up a bullying hotline? The Mayor of Boston was proactive in setting up an anti-bullying hotline. Initially we had a physical phone in a room that rang. But we had not trained anyone how to answer it. So we routed the calls to a cell phone that I now carry around with me.

What do you say to callers? “Boston Public Schools. Bullying hotline.” People are amazed to have a live person. They ask me who I am. I say that I am retired headmaster of 34 years and I have four kids of my own. I assure them that kids absolutely can expect to have a bully free education. As far as I know, Boston is unique in having a live person answer the calls.

Who calls? We get about ten calls a day. Mostly it’s parents. Sometimes students. I tell them that bullying is a very serious thing and that we can get it resolved. I ask their names and they always tell me. I ask if the school been made aware of the bullying. If they have not told anyone, I help put them in touch with the right person at the school. I always tell them to call me back if they want more help.

What happens next? Often I’ll call the school and let them know about the situation. We aim to be very proactive and often work with the school to end the bullying. It helps that I know most of the principals here. Every school in Boston needs to have an anti-bullying plan. Solution Team needs to be part of the plan. We need to get bystander involvement if we are going to make things better.

Do you recommend other school districts set up a bullying hotline? Answering the calls takes a lot of time. But it’s God’s work. Our hotline really makes a difference.

Ed Donnelly works for EDC in Boston where he advises Boston Public Schools on bullying. He is being certified by No Bully as a Solution Team & Coach trainer.