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South Allegheny schools laud anti-bullying website

| Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011

South Allegheny is hoping a $100 investment will pay off for its seventh- and eighth-graders and that eventually all its students can benefit from a new online way to report bullying incidents and school safety threats.

Nearly 1,600 students will return Thursday to the high school, middle school, elementary school and Early Childhood Center. By the second week of September those at the middle school will be introduced to Sprigeo.

Sprigeo, a California-based company, is offering an anonymous way to report bullying incidents to schools in California, New Jersey, Alabama, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

It was developed by Joe Bruzzese, author of "A Parents' Guide to the Middle School Years," a book that had been used as a resource by South Allegheny Middle School principal Lisa Duval.

Bruzzese was finding a problem that Duval believes she's finding at South Allegheny a failure to report incidents of bullying, for fear of being seen as a "snitch."

"We found that most of our students had said they never had been bullied," Duval said.

"Students don't want to admit it is happening to them," guidance counselor Kristy Roche said.

Sprigeo allows a student to report bullying or a concern about a classmate who might be hurting themselves or others.

"They'll just be more comfortable reporting it in the privacy of their homes," Roche hoped. "It is one more opportunity for us to have a pulse on what is happening."

South Allegheny is paying $100 to participate in Sprigeo. It eventually could be a K-12 offering.

"I'm just the person who tried it," Duval said. "I don't see that this couldn't be used eventually district-wide."

More can be found at www.sprigeo.com.

Also new this fall at South Allegheny is a federally-funded Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program at the elementary school and Early Childhood Center, providing a fruit or vegetable snack three times a week.

"Over 50 percent South Allegheny's elementary-aged students ... qualify for free or reduced lunch through the National School Lunch Program," SA spokeswoman Laura Thomson said. "This program benefits low-income children that generally have fewer opportunities to consume fresh fruit and vegetables on a regular basis."

Thomson noted that students who qualify for free lunches also qualify for a break in getting online service through the Internet Essentials program Comcast introduced last week. Parents of those youngsters can get Internet access for $9.95 a month and a $149.99 voucher toward a low-cost computer.

At the high school, some students are raising up to $700 apiece as they prepare a march into Walt Disney World.

They're members of the South Allegheny High School band, which under new director Jessica Humenic will participate in Magic Music Days Nov. 17-23 at the theme park in Orlando, Fla. Humenic is taking the baton from retired band director William Riffle, who retired this summer after 37 years.

A preview of the show Mickey Mouse & Co. can expect to see will happen at the South Allegheny Band Festival Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. at Glassport Stadium.

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