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Waynesboro Schools Launch App to Protect Students from Bullying

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Waynesboro Public Schools students and parents now have an online outlet to report bullying and other disturbing behavior to school administrators.

The school district has enrolled with STOPit, a technology app that allows students to anonymously report everything from cyber bullying to suicide.

Ryan Barber, the director of student services for the Waynesboro Public Schools, said the school district was given the opportunity to enroll in the program by its insurance carrier, the Virginia Municipal League. The insurance carrier is paying the costs for the school district.

"It's no charge to us, and it accomplishes our goal of giving students an outlet to report things that are concerning to them," Barber said.

He said students can take a picture, show a video and upload the information and send directly to administrators.

"After the report is made by the student or parent, the administrator is able to chat anonymously with the person who made the report," Barber said.

Already early in the 2018-19 school year, Barber said information has been sent to administrators regarding bad behavior, and the school district has been able to intervene.

Barber said STOPit also offers 24-hour access that would allow a live representative to intervene and dispatch police.

Families and students can download the STOPit app from Google Play or Apple App Store. A specific school code must be inputed that routes reports to the appropriate administrators. The family or student clicks on the report and details the concern.

Once the administrative team receives the report, a two-way chat can be done with the student or family.

Neil Hooper, the chief revenue officer for STOPit, said the New Jersey-based company launched its product in 2015.

He said the company worked with schools initially in New Jersey on issues dealing with childhood depression, suicide and school safety.

"Quite literally, we are signing up new schools every day," Hooper said.

Today, STOPit is used by 2,900 schools in 44 states.

"This is an extremely efficient and important way to investigate what is reported and to make an impact before it spirals out of control," Hooper said.

Hooper said the anonymity of STOPit is important for students.

"The youth in America today are extremely bright. They will not speak up if they are being tracked," he said.

Hooper said STOPit has held a number of focus groups and has found "that the largest fear of a student is being labeled as a snitch."

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