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Minnesota man's app tackles bullying

WOODBURY, Minn. -- A Woodbury man’s experience with bullying has inspired him to help combat what continues to be a problem in the schools.

“It’s insidious now,” Doug Ballinger said. “Bullying is something that is very near and dear to my heart because I was bullied horribly when I was growing up.

“This is a problem that’s not getting fixed.”

Ballinger has decided to take bullying into his hands with the development of a new application for all smart devices called the Bully-Behavior Incident Reporting Tool.

“We have an app for everything else, why not this,” he said. “I’m doing my best to try and fix the problem.”

The bully report

Ballinger, a former police officer who is retired from the U.S. Air Force, said he was inspired to develop the Bully Behavior Incident Reporting Tool, or BBIRT, after Gov. Mark Dayton vowed to eradicate bullying through the development of an anti-bullying task force.

“I don’t think there is the progress that should have been made,” he said.

Over the years, Ballinger said he has continually heard from people that students are overreacting to bullying and it isn’t as big a problem as they think it is. That is far from the truth, he said.

“Each one of us has a range of tolerance to certain things, so that tolerance could be something as thick as a tree branch, which is very, very hard to break, or it could be a piece of spaghetti,” he said. “It all depends on your situation, growing up and what your life is like, but one thing that cannot be argued is how a person feels.

“Bullying is a real problem.”

With the help of his business partner, Dashan Patani, Ballinger developed the BBIRT, which can be found at www.bbirt.com.

Through BBIRT, students can report a bullying behavior, the location, the person, the actions and the reason. That report is then sent by text or email to both the school and the student’s parent.

The recipients at the school can include the principal, vice principal, school social worker, school resource officer or any other personnel who handle bullying.

“With this app you can get to the point of the matter much faster,” Ballinger said. “I think having something that is simple, accessible and always with them will help students to report incidents more.”

An additional component of BBIRT is that students and parents can then rank the school’s response to the issue –  timeliness, effectiveness, resolution and safety of the student.

Ballinger said BBIRT is available to all students, as long as school contact information can be acquired.

“Students don’t need the school’s permission to use this,” he said.

Benefits of BBIRT

Ballinger said the biggest goal of BBIRT is to eliminate emotional distractions that are preventing students from succeeding in school.

“It’s about having students in school that are focused on what they’re supposed to be focused on, which is learning,” Ballinger said, “It’s about finding out what you’re good at and focusing like a laser beam on that and avoiding these distractions.

“There’s people out there who think their mission is to prevent you from being the best you can be, so BBIRT is about not letting anything prevent you from being the best version of you you can be.”

Additionally, BBIRT is a great first step to help make students feel safer at school, Ballinger said.

The app is not only beneficial to students, Ballinger said, it is also beneficial to schools.

Through BBIRT, schools can evaluate their response to bullying incidents as well as look at where, when and what type of bullying is occurring.

“We want to be able to pinpoint where the hotspots are,” Ballinger said.

BBIRT could be coming to South Washington County Schools soon, Ballinger said.

Ballinger is in talks with the district, specifically East Ridge High School, about partnering on BBIRT.

Ballinger said he hopes the app, which is now live, is downloaded onto the phones of all students across the state.

“My hope is that the state takes this over because this is really something that can help everybody,” he said.

For more information or to download the app, visit www.bbirt.com.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

(651) 702-0976
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