VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — A rise in bullying reports at Vigo County School Corporation (VCSC) linked to changes in reporting.

In the 2021-2022 school year, 143 bullying cases were reported at Vigo County School Corporation. That number rose to 179 reports last school year. It’s an increase Dr. Tom Balitewicz, Assistant Superintendent of student services, expected as he said students’ awareness of reporting and empathy for their classmates has grown.

“I think the sense of empathy is growing with other students. Like, ‘hey, I’m going to look out for my classmate and I’m going to make sure my classmate is being taken care of and nurtured and so, I’m going to report this.’ And I think that awareness only grown,” Balitewicz said.

When looking at state data, bullying reports have increased, so, what’s changed?

“The reporting aspect has changed,” Balitewicz said. “We’ve really emphasized documenting these cases. And the way the state records these things. It’s real time data. So, they’re pulling data from us every day.”

The reporting system, once a bully box where students dropped a handwritten note, now an online self-reporting system.

“On every chrome book we have two apps on the bottom, two icons. And one of them is Stop-it and it will take you directly to the reporting system. And it’s anonymous. 100% anonymous,” Balitewicz said.

A reporting system right at the fingertips of those most vulnerable.

“It beats the bully box on the wall. Because students have access to it 24-7,” Balitewicz said.

Dr. Megan Kirk, Project Aware Coordinator for VCSC and a licensed school psychologist said it’s an opportunity to make students feel heard.

“We want them to feel like they have a voice and that it matters. And so, by taking the time out by investigate those situations, allows us to do that. To help them feel connected to the school, to help them feel validated that ‘what I say matters.’ I think that’s important in building those relationships within our building to,” Kirk said.

Those reports aren’t just heard, “We do have hundreds of bullying reports that are made, and we go through and investigate all of them,” Kirk added.

“We want the reports. I cannot say that enough,” Balitewicz said. “We want the reports. We want all those allegations to come to us. We’re going to address them. After we address them, if it hasn’t stopped or ceased or gotten better, we want to know.”