WASHINGTON – Students are getting a new weapon to fight back against bullies: their cellphones.

A leading education technology company Wednesday announced it will give schools a free and confidential way for students to tell school officials via text that they are being bullied or are witnessing bullying. Blackboard’s TipTxt program could change the school climate — or reveal just how pervasive student-on-student harassment has become.

“Kids have cellphones. They have mobile devices,” said Blackboard chief executive officer Jay Bhatt, whose 9-year-old daughter is already sending digital messages to her friends. “They’re constantly interacting with their mobile devices.”

Blackboard, which provides products to more than half of the nation’s schools, will offer the service for free starting immediately. Texts sent through the confidential program will be routed to school officials, who then will determine how to investigate.

“Things always came (by) word of mouth or in the line coming back from the playground. That whisper down the lane has always occurred,” said Thomas Murray, a former principal who now is director of technology and cyber education at Quakertown Community School District in suburban Allentown, Pa. “We want students to do what’s right. This is another avenue we can tap into.”

The company has tested the system in a handful of schools. Given the company’s reach — 31,000 school districts already use Blackboard products to allow administrators to keep track of student records — it could be an easy sell. Schools use Blackboard services to let students know when classes are canceled because of weather.

Bullying takes many forms, from face-to-face confrontation to online harassment. Schools have tried to combat such practices, but it’s a challenge for educators who cannot be everywhere or face more tangible problems, such as truancy or fistfights.

“It’s a huge problem, it’s got big consequences,” Bhatt said in an interview. “One in three young people have experienced bullying.”