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AI can help combat disciplinary and bullying cases in schools

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A balanced approach using AI is practical in helping schools deal with bullying cases. Photo by Ilayza - Unsplash

By: Prof. Ts. Dr. Manjit Singh Sidhu

The disciplinary and bullying occurrences in schools, particularly in Malaysia has hiked recently. Based on the ministry’s data over the past three years, there were 326 cases reported in 2021, 3,887 cases in 2022, and 4,994 cases as of October 2023. This alarming tendency has made parents concerned about their children’s safety and well-being when sending them to school. Despite employing various methods to address this issue, it has not shown any reduction. Some reasons governing this poor situation has been contributed by not having trained certified psychologies or counsellors in schools. In many instances, one key element contributing to bullying cases in schools revolves around the tendency to conceal such incidents. It’s disheartening to acknowledge that some individuals, be it fellow students or even educators, adopt a stance of turning a blind eye, as if the distressing events unfolding before them are inconsequential.

Prof. Ts. Dr. Manjit Singh Sidhu

There is a persistent culture of pretending that nothing is wrong, a collective silence that unintentionally exacerbates the misery of individuals targeted by bullying. Teachers, who are supposed to safeguard safety and well-being in the classroom, may find themselves confronted by fear. This dread stems from the notion that taking strong action would unwittingly aggravate the problem or, worse, expose them to personal threats. This complicated relationship, in which fear of penalties coexists with a culture of quiet, can tragically result in an environment in which bullying goes unchecked. Breaking the loop requires not just resolving individual bullying incidents, but also developing a larger culture shift among the school community that stresses transparency, empathy, and a shared commitment to safeguarding the safety and emotional well-being of all children.

With the introduction of current technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), this problem has the potential to be reduced or resolved in the modern world. When applied professionally and ethically, AI can help address disciplinary and bullying incidents in schools. Here are some examples of how AI and related technologies may be used to address these issues:

1. CCTV Cameras

AI-powered cameras may be installed in common areas like playgrounds, hallways and entrances to monitor student behavior and detect potential bullying incidents. Smart sensors can detect unusual noises or movements in areas where bullying might occur, such as restrooms or empty classrooms.

2. Facial Recognition

This technology can be used to limit access to certain areas of the school to authorized personnel only, reducing the likelihood of unauthorized individuals entering the premises. In the event of a bullying incident, AI-powered facial recognition can help identify the individuals involved and track their movements.

3. Behavior Analysis

AI can analyze audio and video footage to detect aggressive or unusual behavior, raising alerts to school staff. AI can also analyze written content, such as messages or social media posts, to identify bullying-related keywords and sentiments, enabling timely intervention.

4. Alert Systems

AI systems can generate real-time alerts for teachers, administrators, or parents when bullying behavior is detected or suspected in a particular area of the school. It can also trigger emergency response procedures when severe incidents are identified, ensuring swift action to protect students.

5. Preventive Education

AI-driven chatbots can provide students with a safe and confidential space to discuss their concerns, seek advice, or report bullying incidents. It can deliver personalized anti-bullying educational content to students, promoting awareness and empathy.

6. Data Analytics

AI can analyze historical data to identify patterns and trends related to disciplinary issues and bullying, helping schools implement proactive measures. By analyzing data, AI can pinpoint hotspot areas or times of the day when disciplinary issues are more likely to occur, allowing schools to allocate resources accordingly.

7. Resource Allocation

AI can assist schools in predicting when and where disciplinary issues might arise, helping allocate staff and resources effectively. However, it is critical to address ethical and privacy considerations while adopting AI in schools by ensuring privacy and consent for gathering and utilizing student data; implementing stringent access restrictions to avoid misuse of surveillance technology, such as face recognition; regularly examining and auditing AI systems to reduce bias and mistakes; and being transparent with students, parents, and staff on the use of AI for disciplinary and safety purposes.

AI can be helpful in addressing disciplinary and bullying issues in schools, but it needs to be used responsibly, following legal guidelines, and prioritizing the creation of a safe and inclusive learning atmosphere. Ultimately, the aim should be to establish a secure and supportive environment for all students.

The subject of whether professionally qualified persons should handle all bullying instances in schools is challenging. While these experts bring experience, impartiality, and secrecy to the table, they must be balanced against resource restrictions, integration issues, and the crucial role of teachers and school personnel in detecting and reacting to bullying. A balanced approach that leverages the capabilities of both internal and external resources appears to be the most practical alternative.

Collaboration and communication between these two groups can result in more successful anti-bullying programs, making the learning environment safer and more supportive for all kids. Although using AI may incur large expenditures, it may be started by introducing it in schools where bullying is prevalent.

The author is a Professor at the College of Computing and Informatics, Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN), Fellow of the British Computer Society, Chartered IT Professional, Fellow of the Malaysian Scientific Association, Senior IEEE member and Professional Technologist MBOT Malaysia. He may be reached at manjit@uniten.edu.my

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