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Seattle schools get help fighting cyberbullying

SEATTLE – A new pilot program could help combat online bullying at Seattle Public Schools.

Google is partnering with the organization iCanHelpline to provide a grant that will help more than 40 middle and high schools in Seattle.

“This is a helpline for things that are happening on the ‘cloud’ and happening with students that is harmful. This is sort of social media part of school safety now,” said Anne Collier, founder of iCanHelpline.

As part of National Bullying Prevention Month, Seattle Public Schools and iCanHelpline.org announced the yearlong pilot program on Monday.

It’s the first social media helpline for schools in the U.S. that will provide schools with the tools to address online harassment, intimidation and bullying of students.

“When cyberbullying happens, it can happen out of the classroom and we didn’t have the tools to address it. If it happened out of the school day we had to refer to law enforcement or some other mechanism, now we can use iCanHelpline.org,” said Kim Schmanke, a spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools.

As part of the program, iCanHelpline will provide schools and district officials tools to help navigate popular apps and services like Instagram, Twitter, Kik, etc to locate offensive content and have it flagged.

If something is flagged, the item will be reviewed to determine if it violates the terms of service so it can be removed if needed.

"With 92 percent of U.S. teens online daily, 24 percent 'almost constantly,' and about a third having experienced cyberbullying, schools need and deserve help when problems turn up in social media," said iCanHelpline founder Anne Collier.

Seattle Public Schools is the largest district in the state and the first district to try out the services offered by iCanHelpline.org.

The program was first introduced in California schools two years ago. It went nationwide last year.