Stopping Sexual Harassment In Healthcare & Inspiring Speak Up Cultures

Long hours. Fractured sleep. Steep learning curves. Working in the medical profession is hard, but it’s even harder for women. Female medical residents, nurses, and physicians encounter gender bias, endure sexual harassment, and face a greater risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression than their male counterparts. In the face of a growing and aging population, and the very real threat of a shortage of doctors, healthcare organizations can’t afford to lose any dedicated professionals due to a toxic work culture.

The healthcare industry disadvantages women at every stage of their careers, causing many to step back or down from their roles or leave the industry entirely. Aside from the obvious issues associated with mistreatment of and discrimination—no person should have to endure harassment or fear for their personal safety when doing their job—not remedying these dysfunctional behaviors won’t just ultimately drive women from healthcare, but it will also negatively impact patient outcomes.

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To combat this, women in the medical field have banded together and are now speaking out as part of Time’s Up Healthcare, an initiative to curb sexual harassment and gender inequity in medicine, which officially launched on March 1, 2019.

“You want to adapt to the culture and climate, and you want to succeed. That means you’re going to ignore the pat on the butt, the hand on the leg, and the comments — so many comments — about one’s breasts and sex life, one’s fertility plans, and loss of virginity. It’s like the locker room, but it’s the halls of medicine,” Jane van Dis, MD, Ob/Gyn, Ob Hospitalist, and one of the steering committee members of Time’s Up Healthcare told InStyle.

The healthcare field needs to address these issues for the mental health of female employees: female doctors have double the rates of burnout as their male colleagues, and have at 2.5 to 4 times the rate of the general population.

“Many who have experienced harassment and abuse will demonstrate such behaviors as post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, and lessened ability to make decisions,” Susan Strauss, registered nurse and harassment and bullying consultant in Burnsville, Minnesota, said in the the 2018 Sexual Harassment of Physicians report. “Many victims question their self-worth and ask, ‘What did I do to deserve this?’”

Fortunately, with the advent of tools like STOPit, empowering healthcare staff to report sexual harassment and misconduct is simple. It’s easy to implement safe, confidential reporting and it’s easy to administer with STOPit’s best-in-class incident management system. In less than an hour, assigned staff can be up and running on STOPit Admin, with an intuitive, customizable dashboard and user experience that makes incident management and reporting extremely manageable in the context of an already high-pressure work environment.

 

Partnership Spotlight: Giving Kitchen Is Honored For Its Role As A Progressive Leader In the Heart Of Atlanta

The STOPit Solutions community is delighted to celebrate a tremendous achievement by one of our valued partners, Giving Kitchen.

After six years of providing Atlanta-area food service workers emergency assistance and resources, the nonprofit will be honored with the prestigious 2019 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year award at a ceremony in Chicago on May 6. The Humanitarian of the Year is awarded to an individual or organization whose work in the food services industry improves the lives of others and this is certainly true for Giving Kitchen.

This year, Giving Kitchen plans to use its platform as an influencer to engage workers more on issues of self-care and stability, such as mental health, suicide prevention, financial well-being, and eliminating stressors such as sexual harassment and discrimination from workplaces

Bryan Schroeder, Giving Kitchen’s Executive Director and a guiding force building Giving Kitchen’s leadership legacy, noted that many small restaurant businesses don’t have plans in place to deal with harassment and their employees may not even know who to approach when it happens. 

“There are no bad apples, only bad barrels,” he said. “I really do think that’s an important topic of discussion for restaurants to consider, recognizing that we are responsible for the work environments we create.”

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to inspire speak up cultures in your organization.

Schroeder seems to be playing a role he was born for. His parents opened their first restaurant in Rome, Georgia, when he was just three days old. Growing up, he was exposed to every facet of restaurant life, from washing dishes to the tough management decisions required of business owners. Yet, Schroeder felt a strong calling toward public service, which led him to pursue a masters degree from Georgia’s Institute for Nonprofit Organizations. Upon graduation, he spent a decade with the environmental advocacy organization the Georgia Conservancy.

When the Giving Kitchen position opened, he recognized a unique opportunity to marry his restaurant and nonprofit backgrounds and help make a difference in people’s lives, starting with Giving Kitchen. He and his team quickly began implementing changes that signaled a commitment to leading by example.

“It’s never too early for a small organization to start planning a future where you need really strong safeguards against abuse, malfeasance, embezzlement, sexual harassment or discrimination,” Schroeder said. “We’re a small organization now, but we’ve doubled in size since I started working there a year and a half ago, and we’ll probably double again in the next few years.”

Not yet a decade old, Giving Kitchen quickly outgrew its first office. Schroeder recalls its open setup as the kind of space that would work well for a tech startup, but did not offer the kind of anonymity and privacy its visitors needed. Today, it occupies a sizable office with a conference room and areas where people can feel at ease while talking about what’s happening in their lives.

But when asked to describe how it feels for Giving Kitchen to be recognized for its work as winner of the 2019 JBF Humanitarian of the Year award, Schroder is clear about who gets the credit, “When I hear people say Giving Kitchen changed Atlanta, it’s not anything we did,” said Schroeder. “It was Atlanta coming together to create Giving Kitchen that changed Atlanta.”

Giving Kitchen grew out of an overwhelming community response to assist Ryan Hidinger, a well-known Atlanta chef, with financial support to cover cancer treatment expenses that were not covered by insurance. Executive Director Bryan Schroeder credits those who came together to create Giving Kitchen with changing the region’s food industry forever by making the community more tight-knit and supportive of each other’s work.

Since its inception, Giving Kitchen has awarded $2.4 million in Crisis Grants to some 1,600 workers struggling with injuries, health problems, the loss of loved ones, housing issues and other emergencies. The organization also runs a Stability Network program that connects restaurant workers with social services such as mental health and child care assistance.

Not Hopeless: Integrating Trauma-Informed Care To Positively Impact Youth Considering Self-Harm

Note: This post may trigger an adverse reaction. If it is beginning to upset you, please stop reading and talk to your support team.

Young people who take their own lives: know the warning signs of mental illness

We are saddened by the continuing statistics surfacing around youth suicide, including the 2 most recent in Parkland, Florida. While school safety is the largest visible topic that we address across the country with our STOPit platform, the hidden issue we address far more commonly relates to youth depression, mental illness and suicidal thoughts.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), for every child lost in a school violence/shooting in the United States, there are 25 lost to suicide. In fact, upwards of 6% of the reports we receive on our platform each week in K12 schools are tied to suicide.

School shootings need to end, and at STOPit we are dedicated to continuing to help avoid planned attacks and violence with our approach that encourages bystanders to become upstanders. However, for every school threat avoided, we help avoid significantly more self harm incidents thanks again to upstanders using STOPit. It is clear that youth suicide is an epidemic that should emerge as an equally high priority in the wake of recent tragedies.

As such, we teamed up with Strive, a trauma-informed outpatient recovery program, to discuss how they have implemented evidence-based techniques to help individuals, schools, and communities heal from the results of trauma. As experts in this field, they have a valuable perspective on how to help avoid these events before they occur and how to implement effective programs if they ever did.

Q: Let’s start with the environment before there is a tragedy. Students often know when their friends are struggling. They recognize telltale signs and behaviors that are indicators of broader issues. How do you communicate with schools and their students about the importance of saying something, knowing this?

Strive: We point out to schools that students, who spend all their time with their peers, notice much more than the more openly troubling behaviors of their friends.

There are the obviously dangerous behaviors: John is getting into fights where he never did before. Mary is smoking (marijuana). Someone is cutting themselves (self-harm).

But there are also more subtle warning signs. It takes training and education to notice these:

– “My friend doesn’t want to do the things he used to love to do; he won’t play Lacrosse anymore, say.” Hearing this, a counselor might ask, “Why not? Is your friend under pressure not to fail? Is he being mocked? Threatened?”

– “I notice that Jennifer is only eating salads lately. And she’s dressing differently.”

– “My buddy Tom is suddenly eating alone in the cafeteria and doesn’t talk much.”

These are all behaviors which might point to depression, anxiety, or social tensions.  Students, and frankly many adults, won’t pick up on them because they seem inconsequential. But to counselors, they might turn out to be important indicators, warning signs.

We don’t want to over diagnosis; but we must be aware.

The key point is, to notice these things takes education and training, for all of us, and especially for young people. Then they need an accessible way to report them, a way they will accept and use within their own value system.

Q: We all went to school, and we know the feeling at that age that it’s socially risky to “get other kids into trouble.

Strive: Yes, kids have their culture, and it seems risky to ‘tattle’, to tip off the school or parents to these issues, especially regarding the bigger problems. But we believe we can change this attitude for many young people. We try hard to reach young people about caring, and real responsibility for their friends.  Couple this approach with a way of reporting behaviors anonymously, and schools and parents can begin receiving — literally — life-saving information.

Q: Can you talk a little about the importance of 24/7 monitoring; so not only in school but also after school?

Strive: Yes, a few points on this are important to understand.

In the evenings, young people can become disconnected from their social milieu even though they may think that social media substitutes. Weekends, especially Sundays, the “reentry day,” can become problematic for young people with anxiety or depression. So 24/7 family support and awareness, and if necessary, communicating back to school counselors is critical.

Young people express anxiety and depression differently than adults.  While adults may become saddened or suppressed, young people are likely to become irritable, or transfer emotional pain to their bodies, as chronic pain, or headaches, or even stomach aches. Adolescents can become resistant and antagonistic as any parent knows.

We believe it’s important to have a set dinner time, preferably with the phones turned off. Behavioral issues are a disease of disconnection, so we urge families to connect and listen.

We don’t want to become helicopter parents, but we do want to keep a line in.

Q: As a service provider addressing trauma, you deal first-hand with children’s safety and that must, at times, feel daunting. How do you stay positive and what is your advice to those  that are feeling overwhelmed by the statistics around self harm and suicide in our youth?

Strive: You said it! We are exposed to trauma every day, sometimes all day and it isn’t easy.   But trauma is not the only phenomenon in this life. We urge people to express gratitude, with intention and with honest feeling for the wonderful people and beautiful things that do happen around us. One clinician at Strive creates a “gratitude list.” There are clinicians and clients who balance the bad by making a point of helping— a friend, a social agency. And hey, you can turn off the cable TV every so often.

We thank Strive for helping us with the discussion around this difficult topic and we appreciate the Strive Cares perspective.

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Are you, or is someone you know, struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm?

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers, and provides free and confidential emotional support to people who are in crisis, or experiencing emotional distress, 24/7. For immediate assistance, call 1-800-273-8255.

We’re Family In the Food Industry: Let’s Get Healthy & End Harassment At Work

It was a new drama every time Robin walked into the kitchen of the New York City restaurant where she waited tables. The source: a cook whose specialty was a foul broth of insults and inappropriate comments.

Eventually, she gave him a piece of her mind and hoped he’d back off. No such luck. In the restaurant industry, revenge can be a dish not served at all.

“He stopped making my orders,” she recalled. “All of the other tables were getting their food on time. The customers were annoyed and taking it out on me, by complaining or giving me bad tips. I felt trapped — it was a toxic situation.”

Ask anyone you know who has worked in a restaurant and they’re almost guaranteed to have a comparable story. Statistics show that it is one of the most stressful industries in the country in terms of dealing with sexual harassment and bullying.

The Front & Back Of the House: Depending On Each Other To Succeed Means Working Together To End Abuse

According to a report by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an incredible 90 percent of female workers claim to have been sexually harassed by customers, with half claiming it happens on a weekly basis.

As famously portrayed in books, films and TV series like Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and Bradley Cooper’s Burnt, the the restaurant and food services industry is incredibly fast-paced and high energy and often the front and back of house are non-stop action, leading to high levels of stress and frustration. Still, this is no longer an acceptable excuse for a toxic work environment. A Modern Restaurant Management columnist recently outlined a few acts that would be considered sexual harassment in the industry, although they could hold true in any setting:

  • A supervisor demanding a sexual quid pro quo from a subordinate for a work benefit
  • When people are treated as inferior due to their gender
  • Management retaliating against a worker for alleging sexual harassment

The problems often stem from people who are supposed to be on the same team. Two-thirds of female workers and over half of men reported having experienced some form of sexual harassment from their managers, while nearly 80 percent of women and 70 percent of men surveyed said they were on the receiving end from their co-workers. Roughly one in five women reported being pressured by management to sexualize their behavior and/or appearance when dealing with customers.

Contact us now and learn how restaurant industry leaders are using the latest tech tools to be more successful.

And of course workers who rely on tips are in an especially precarious position, as they often have to tolerate the intolerable in order to make a living. Waiters and waitresses are dependent on solid performances from bartenders, cooks, bus boys, dishwashers, hostesses and others in order to deliver customers the pleasant dining experience they expect.

Chefs Have Their Toolbox, Restaurant and Food Service Orgs Need Theirs, Too

The restaurant industry is not immune to the changes taking place in the #MeToo era. As an essayist in Eater observed, “We cannot afford to pretend everything is all better because we got rid of the most heinous bad actors, like Mario Batali” — no less than a culture change is necessary.

Owners who take proactive steps to promote happy and healthy atmospheres in their workplaces will maintain their best workers and protect their bottom lines. Those who don’t risk allowing bad behaviors to fester, leading to staff turnover, unhappy customers and lawsuits that can destroy their businesses. When customers see unpleasant working conditions they often go to social media to share what they saw, so solutions that address workplace issues before they spiral out of control can have real effects to the bottom line.

In Robin’s case, even though the cook’s behavior was bad for the business, she felt like telling the manager was a lost cause – the two were friends and disciplinary action was unlikely. So she dealt with her problem the way so many others do in the industry – she quit. But if she had some way of letting the owner know, she said, it’s possible they could have straightened the situation out.

Legal experts stress that restaurant owners should mandate employees sign on to anti-bullying and harassment policies. These documents not only help employers minimize or avoid liability, but ensure everyone is clear on what’s expected of them. At least one fast food chain, Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes, has taken the concept a step further, asking workers to agree to a social media harassment policy.

STOPit Solutions’ anonymous reporting app has a growing number of clients in restaurant chains, according to Chief Revenue Officer Neil Hooper. The app empowers workers who would otherwise feel too vulnerable to share their stories straight with the company’s human resources officers and others who can solve the problem.

An anonymous reporting system can be a valuable tool for retaining reliable workers in an industry that is known for its high turnover. Restaurant and bar jobs open all the time, providing employees plenty of mobility if they’re not happy with their work situations.

Hooper noted that STOPit can be especially helpful during summer and holiday seasons, when restaurants staff up with short-term workers who are not invested in their new workplace cultures.

“It’s a busy time that’s already stressful for employees,” he said. “When you add in bad behavior from one worker to another, it can create a lot of tension. We have heard from a number of employers that it’s an important time to have an anonymous HR reporting system in place.”

Contact STOPit today to learn more about how anonymous reporting can help thwart harassment and bullying in your business.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is April: Stay Informed, Stay Vigilant and Take Action to Combat Sexual Assault

The momentum of movements like Me Too and Time’s Up is causing society to make a major shift in how we discuss and react to sexual violence, as well as how sexual assaults are identified, reported, and prevented. And there is no time is better to lead and participate in these discussions than now, since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a time when survivors and advocacy groups work to raise awareness surrounding the pervasive issue of sexual violence.

And the prevalence of sexual assault can be shocking.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC):

  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.
  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they are 18 years old.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
  • 90% of college sexual assault victims don’t report the assault.
  • Rape is the most underreported crime: 63% of cases are never reported to police.

These statistics make it clear that sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem. Moreover, in addition to immediate costs such as medical expenses and missed wages, sexual assault can have devastating long-term impacts like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

What’s not as clear, as evidenced by a growing body of research, is how victims can safely reach out to report incidents and ask for help. Anecdotal and peer-reviewed research both confirm that victims of sexual assault, rape, or sexual abuse almost unanimously report that it is often confusing to know where to turn to report an incident — and it’s always intimidating.

Statistics and surveys are also showing that while the #MeToo movement may be encouraging more victims feel to come forward, victims and witnesses are not reporting these attacks using traditional methods. Survivors have given the following reasons for not reporting a sexual assault:

  • Fear of retaliation
  • Scared of hostile treatment by the authorities
  • Uncertain that authorities would consider the incident serious enough
  • Did not want family or friends to know about it
  • Didn’t know how to report the incident

Workplaces and schools can take a modern approach to protecting their people and their reputation by utilizing smartphone apps like STOPit as a 21st century solution. These tools are designed to create a safe space for students and employees to report incidents freely—and without fear. The hope is that by making it simple and anonymous, people will be encouraged to report, which allows for real-time, positive intervention for the victim as well as the additional benefit of helping to quickly identify repeat offenders.

Learn More About How STOPit Can Empower People to be Courageous When Confronting Sexual Assault

It’s encouraging to recognize that safe, anonymous reporting tools and improvements in organizational cultures are bolstering the courage of bystanders — giving them the confidence to get involved in protecting their co-workers by providing corroborating evidence in support of a friend’s, classmate’s or co-worker’s report. In a problem this serious, we celebrate every step forward.

“I Ask” for “Awareness to Action”

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center, a leading nonprofit in providing information and tools to prevent and respond to sexual violence, has adopted “I Ask” as their theme for this year’s SAAM. The campaign, “champions the message that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.” Words and actions shape our world and culture: raising awareness of how often sexual violence happens; talking about consent; sharing safety, prevention, and reporting strategies; and learning helpful and compassionate ways to talk to survivors are the goals of SAAM.

The good news is that individuals, communities, and companies are already taking important steps to successfully combat the risk of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse through conversations, programs, policies, and tools that promote safety, respect, and equality. Marriott has received a lot of recent, positive press for its corporate commitment to stamping out human trafficking in the hospitality industry.

Campaigns like #MeTooK12 and RAAIN’S Awareness to Action, provide everything from statistics to help define the problem and put it in context, to practical tools like scripts for how to hold a conversation with friends, family and community about sexual violence. They even provide ready-to-go graphics and campaign hashtags to help promote the conversation on social media platforms.

Encouraging as these campaigns are, however, we need to stay committed to working for real, lasting solutions to sexual violence in our workplaces, schools and communities. Recent news stories like the one that exposed rampant corruption —  including cheating and bribery — in the college admissions scandal, make it easier for us to allow the seriousness of this issue fade into the background and threaten to drown out emerging conversations that are calling for action — like those that are happening right now in higher education.

In fact, sexual misconduct is the most frequently reported and managed incident type on the STOPit app for Higher Education customers. Cases brought against campuses, including William Paterson University, and Ivy League schools such as Yale University where three students have filed a class-action lawsuit, arguing that the university has enabled a fraternity culture of harassment, remind us to remain engaged and vigilant — even as we celebrate progress towards the goal of making sexual harassment and victimization, rare.

Let’s Do More All Year Long to Combat Sexual Assault.

What else can be done to help? Individuals can show support for survivors, stand up to victim blaming, correct harmful misconceptions, and promote everyday consent.

Though it is certainly a good thing that SAAM gives us an opportunity to come together as a community to learn more and do more, one month isn’t enough to solve the widespread issue of sexual violence. However we can use the attention SAAM generates as an opportunity to energize and expand prevention efforts throughout the year.

The NSVRC is calling on supporters to wear teal on April 2, their “Day of Action,” as a way to spread awareness and show solidarity with survivors.

For more ideas and opportunities to get involved all month long, visit these organizations online:

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

RAAIN

NO MORE

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Each voice is powerful and necessary in preventing sexual violence, misconduct, and abuse. SAAM is a powerful a reminder that we can change the world through the things we say and do each day.

For more information about STOPit and how organizations are using the anonymous reporting app to encourage healthier, safer communities, workplaces and schools, call one of our safety solutions experts, today.

Moms Empower Bystanders To Become Upstanders with Technology: STOPit Joins Experts for Podcast On Bullying in Schools

Moms Empower Bystanders To Become Upstanders with Technology:

STOPit Joins Experts for Podcast On Bullying in Schools

Recently, Neil Hooper, COO of STOPit Solutions, appeared on WJCT Radio with host of First Coast Connect, Melissa Ross, and fellow guests Dr. David Chesire of the University of Florida Health Jacksonville and Bryna Rodenhizer, Contributor to the Jacksonville Moms Blog. During the nearly 30 minute interview, they talked frankly about the impact of bullying in schools, including the importance of empowering bystanders to be part of the solution to what UNESCO recently named a global epidemic.

We’re happy to share an excerpt of this conversation here, as well as a link to the audio for the entire morning show segment.

WJCT is a local affiliate of NPR Radio.

Melissa Ross: Good morning, we’re live from studio five, and this is First Coast Connect. I’m Melissa Ross, and thanks for listening. Just ahead this morning, how local schools are empowering kids to use their phones to stop bullying and cyber abuse.

Melissa Ross: Next week the Glenn County, Georgia school system plans to launch a new program called STOPit. It’s a new technology platform that helps schools stop bullying, cyber abuse, threats of violence, kids self-harming, and other troublesome behaviors. Now, the way STOPit works is students can submit anonymous reports through the platform, either by text message, photos, or video. They go straight to school administrators, who can then conduct investigations and make schools safer. We’re really curious to learn more about STOPit, so we’re going to take a closer look at this new app, and also, how bullying affects kids in schools and how that’s being studied here in our area.

Melissa Ross: As we welcome Dr. David Chesire, associate professor, University of Florida Health Jax. He’s on the line. Good morning doctor.

Dr. David C.: Good morning, glad to be here.

Melissa Ross: Neil Hooper is with us. He’s the Chief Operating Officer for STOPit, also joining us by phone. Hi Neil.

Melissa Ross: (also) Joining us here in studio, Bryna Rodenhizer. She’s a contributor to the Jacksonville Moms Blog. Bryna, good morning to you.

Bryna R.: Good morning.

Melissa Ross: Thanks for being with us. Okay. In a moment we’ll learn a little bit more about the STOPit…

Neil Hooper: Hi Melissa.

Melissa Ross: Hi Neil, Chief Operating Officer of STOPit. Thanks for being with us. All right, STOPit, this new app that’s going to launch next week up in Georgia, in Glenn County, how does it work?

Neil Hooper: Well, I think you gave a great introduction. We’re in over 3,000 schools now and what happens is we announce to the students that the app is available, they go to the app store or Google Play and download the app. They type in their school code and then their messages are routed directly to school administrators. It works really well and actually what the audience may be interested in is the … We often find that it’s a bystander that is submitting the report.

Melissa Ross: Right. Empowering kids who are not either bullies or being bullied to speak up, the bystander effect, that’s been studied in schools. This is a way for kids who might, I guess, feel intimidated about speaking up to do so. Is that right?

Neil Hooper: Well, that’s right, and key to our solution is that we provide anonymity for the students. The greatest fear that most kids have in school is being labeled a snitch. I think we can all … I think many of us would agree that our kids are good kids and they want to do the right thing, but they’re afraid to do the right thing, so by making it anonymous, they can have the courage to do the right thing, speak up when they know something is wrong, and as I said, the message will be routed directly to the school and then the school with the STOPit platform can communicate back and forth with the student on the app and gather more information about what’s going on.

Neil Hooper: We find that giving the kids an avenue to speak up and then giving the school a way to communicate back and forth with that brave reporter can help us get to the bottom of issues before they spiral out of control. I think the downstream effects of not addressing bullying can be really scary and we’re seeing some horrible statistics nationally about youth depression and youth suicide and we really want to get ahead of these things before they spiral out of control.

Melissa Ross: Just last week, a 10 year old boy in Louisville, Kentucky committed suicide and his parents say it’s because he had been bullied at school over a medical condition, a medical defect that he had, and so Neil, this is very serious business, kids are killing themselves. Let me ask you though as a follow up, with the STOPit app, are you concerned at all about kids using it maliciously, filing false reports and are there legal issues, liability issues around kids taking videos and sending them to administrators?

Neil Hooper: Well, I’ll take the legal question first. The good news is that these solutions are protected by federal law, so there is no issue whatsoever of a minor reporting these things to the school. The network is entirely private, so the students reports go only to the school and then the school communicates back and forth to students. So, that is … There’s no liability there that’s been investigated, and we abide by COPPA and FERPA and other related federal laws, so that’s okay.

Neil Hooper: The schools themselves have, of course, the responsibility to read these messages if they’re sent in, and we provide a service and Glenn County has added this service, we’ll actually monitor the account for our schools to make sure that they’re made aware that something has been reported. We’ll contact the school to let them know a child has sent something, so we really have their backs, so to speak, to make sure that if something is reported, it’s taken care of.

Melissa Ross: Bryna. Bryna Rodenhizer, who writes for the Jacksonville Moms Blog, and you’ve written about bullying, as a parent, as you’re listening to this, what are your thoughts?

Bryna R.: Oh, I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s great to have that resource available for children who are old enough to use it. I think that it is a great segue from teaching younger children how to address bullying, and then once they’re older, and it’s appropriate to use that app, I think it’s fantastic.

Melissa Ross: Dr. David Cheshire is on the line with us from UF Health Jax. Until recently you were a trauma psychologist, and Dr. Cheshire, UF Health has even been conducting a study on the public health effects of school bullying, what are your thoughts about the way new technological innovations are being developed to address this issue, because certainly schools have tried all kinds of avenues to deal with bullying? What about this?

Dr. David C.: Yeah, no, I always say when we do public health meetings, the second we start talking about bullying, that’s the rest of the meeting, it’s what we’re going to talk about from that point forward, because it is such a sprawling problem and difficult to deal with. I’m in favor of any tools that are out there that we can use if they’re effective, and this one sounds like a great one. It’s going to be as effective as the school makes it. I like what he (Hooper) said earlier about the school’s (being) ultimately responsible for investigating what’s going on. I think that’s where basically everything’s going to fall.

Dr. David C.: For children, well, for anybody really, but for children in particular, what’s most important is that they feel that they’ll be believed when they make a report, that they feel that there’ll be some sort of follow up and that they don’t have the fear of retaliation, which kind of gets to that question you had about will this be used actually in and of itself be bullying too? So to the extent that kids feel comfortable with this, I think it’d be an amazing tool to try to identify and ultimately defeat bullying in schools.

Melissa Ross: Neil Hooper of STOPit, this is enrolling next week in Glenn county, Georgia. You’re also in some other Florida school districts and districts all over the country. Correct? I believe you’re even looking at using this app in adult workplaces as well. Is that right?

Neil Hooper: That’s right. We have 12 live accounts in Florida. We’re new to Florida, and we’re expanding across the country, and yes, the issues that we’re describing in schools, I think we would all agree often are seen in the workplace as well, around harassment and discrimination concerns. Once again, these things happen and people are afraid to speak up because they’re afraid about their job. So the power of STOPit is with the ability to report anonymously and for the right people to communicate back to the individual to gather more information about what’s going on.

Melissa Ross: How about the fact too that kids use their phones to bully each other, to cyber bully each other, so in effect you’re giving children a weapon, I guess, to fight back, empowering them to use their phones to turn the dynamic around, it sounds like?

Neil Hooper: Well, Melissa, I’m glad you brought that up, and that’s … What you’ve just said there was the formation of our company. We noticed that with the advent of smartphones, and kids over the last few years have increasing access to both smartphones and social media applications, they are using those devices and those applications to cyber bully. Often the cyber bullying is done in a group environment, imagine in many of these cases, there are three or four or five or six classmates picking on another student in one of these group text settings. As you said, we can turn this situation around. You can take a screenshot of this horrible behavior, attach it to a STOPit report, send it to the administration and you have an adult step in and put an end to this very bad behavior.

Melissa Ross: Bryna Rodenhizer of the Jacksonville Moms blog, this is something you’ve blogged about, how important it is to educate kids not to be silent if they see another child being bullied or harmed. There’s a documentary film about this, Submit, The Documentary, that you’ve blogged about. Do you think that, with your own kids, I know that with your own kids you’ve had to talk to them about bullying and try to comfort them sometimes when they’ve dealt with school bullies as so many of us have as parents. It’s terrifying as a parent to think about your child being treated this way.

Bryna R.: The bystander effect is real. Bystanders can do a lot of good, or they can do a lot of harm. Right. They absolutely can. It’s important to me as a mom to teach my children the importance of being a safe place for their friends and their neighbors, people in the community. Teaching them that they should always be a warm and welcoming place that someone would feel safe to tell them if something was making them sad or hurting their feelings.

Melissa Ross: Dr. Cheshire with UF Health, can you bring us up to date? I don’t think you’re the lead author on the study, but on the study that UF Health is conducting right now about bullying and how it is a public health crisis for young people.

Dr. David C.: Sure. Basically, the numbers are kind of all over the place depending on the research you’re looking at, for how often bullying occurs and not just focusing on those being bullied, the survivors of bullying, but also the bullies themselves because so many people who are bullying had been bullied for themselves. The reason that so much of the research right now is looking at children, is because this is the formative time where people are learning how to deal with adversity, and so the very same coping strategies that they learn and what’s effective and what keeps them safe, is what they’re going to take with them into adulthood, and so if you learn that aggression for the sake of aggression worked for you as a bully, you’re probably going to bring that with you to college and beyond, and it’s going to start getting you into all kinds of trouble there.

Dr. David C.: So focusing on children to learn more effective strategies of how to deal with adversity, how to deal with not getting your own way, and also how to deal when somebody is stepping on your own rights, who to go to, where are safe places to go. And absent that, too often people isolate themselves because they don’t trust the authority, or they don’t know who to go to, or which adults to go to, and there’s so many resources out there from the school teacher, to the principal, to the school psychologist, to the school social worker, and on and on, the children don’t feel safe with those people. They isolate themselves and become further targets for bullying too because they lose their resources.

Melissa Ross: All right. I’ll have to leave it there. Bryna Rodenhizer, Jax Moms Blog. Neil Hooper, who is the COO of STOPit, and Dr. David Chesire of UF Health Jax. Thanks so much.

There IS a solution.

STOPit has had the great privilege of meeting people all over the country and around the world who are bravely, and effectively, addressing the issues of bullying, harassment and intimidation. With each conversation, we are more encouraged than ever that bullying and its consequences may one day soon be the exception rather than the rule in school culture, workplace culture and our communities.

For more information about STOPit and its impact, including how the mobile app empowers bystanders to become upstanders, call us now and speak with one of our subject experts.

Looking To The Future With AGRiP: Insurance Pools Leverage Technology To Lower Risk And Liability Claims For Members

The Association of Governmental Risk Pools (AGRiP) is the leading national association for pool management, as well as the recognized authority on and informational resource for intergovernmental risk and benefits pooling. These pools cover the full spectrum of public entity organizations: state agencies, higher education, public education, all forms of local government, health care facilities, and not-for-profit organizations. They also provide a wide range of property, casualty, workers’ compensation, and employee benefits programs for their members. AGRiP has spent more than two decades energizing the power of public entity pools, making member organizations more effective, collaborative, and informed.

With more than 215 member pools, AGRiP has a compelling history but their real focus is on the future. It’s this forward-thinking approach that made it obvious to Neil Hooper, COO of STOPit Solutions, that the leader in mobile, anonymous reporting technology needed to attend the 2019 Governance & Leadership Conference, March 3rd-6th.

“The sessions are insightful and the opportunity to share experiences with industry peers is extremely valuable,” said Hooper. “Pressing issues like SAM claims as well as emerging issues like cyber security are affecting many pools and their members, and it’s important to spend time sharing experiences. We are honored to be able to participate as a core solution for public entities and their risk management teams.”

This year’s Governance & Leadership conference, themed Navigating Change, focused on on thought diversity and inclusivity in the public entity pooling environment. In addition to traditional sessions on leadership and governance, this year’s conference included an increased emphasis on best practices for leveraging technology, making it obvious that AGRiP isn’t relying on its history when serving customers — it’s setting a course for a better future that includes lowering risk and liability for all customers.

New and emerging technology presents an important opportunity for all industries, including insurance pools. Neil Hooper went to St. Louis with colleague Jeff Schobel to meet with these governing bodies to share the latest analytics and trends gleaned from STOPit’s incident management tools so that insurance pool partners know and understand the value—both operationally and and to the member—of technologies like STOPit.

“STOPit has emerged as the leader in K12, and over the past year we have emerged as a leader in the workplace setting for municipal pool employees as well,” said Hooper. “Working to reduce claims for our partners and sharing the success stories of using STOPit reporting to address behavior issues before they spiral out of control is a wonderful experience.”

The School Pool for Excess Liability Limits Joint Insurance Fund (SPELL JIF) program, a joint insurance fund for 76 public school districts in New Jersey, is one example of how STOPit is utilized by pools. The pool is paying for schools to use the STOPit app to reduce bullying, assist school safety, and reduce the risk of claims and exposure to claims.

“The response that boys will be boys and girls will be girls, that’s just not acceptable anymore,” says Scott Tennant, Deputy Executive Director of SPELL JIF. “That’ll cost you money, and if you’re an insurer you know that’ll cost you a lot of money.”

SPELL JIF provides STOPit to its member schools as an effective tool to report cyberbullying issues and other misconduct. The sophisticated analytics tools which enable schools to collect and interpret their reporting data is what separates the award-winning STOPit app from its competition. By utilizing one of several highly customizable reporting tools included in the STOPit Solution, schools can easily spot signs of ongoing problems or patterns that can help predict – and ultimately thwart – future issues.

“(STOPit) provides the opportunity for us to learn immediately about things that are occurring, to have correct information and to intervene quickly,” says Tennant. “That reduces that claim stream and for every one of those events, we can check off $100,000-plus saved.”

Watch the full interview here: https://youtu.be/doIpKuDJDIs

Speakers at the AGRiP conference provided practical advice on dynamic new ways public pools can approach coverage, claims, litigation, and risk management, including how anonymous reporting is making an positive impact. As a risk management resource, the STOPit Insurance Solution offers insurance partners valuable data and insights about patterns and trends across their insurance members. With STOPit, insurance partners are better positioned to understand behavior, stop issues before they become claims, facilitate compliance, and gain insight into where there are opportunities for risk mitigation resources. This puts the future in the hands of those providing and utilizing anonymous reporting apps like STOPit.

Innovative approaches are not just forward-thinking: they may help better risk management and reduce the cost and pervasiveness of claims for preventable behavior-based liability issues. And anonymous reporting technologies can be an important and enterprising part of this solution, as insured individuals are empowered to step forward and report issues safely and in the way people communicate today—on their phone and on the go. By utilizing technologies like STOPit, insureds can stop reacting to issues and start preventing them.

“At STOPit we are making massive investments in people, processes, and innovative technology,” said Hooper. “The benefits of reducing risk and addressing liability concerns is delivering benefits to our pools by reducing claims, and to their members by helping reinforce a positive culture and climate.”

For more information about STOPit for your company or organization, call now and speak with one of our insurance solutions experts.

It’s Not the Beer: Company Culture That Really Attracts and Retains Millennial Employees

You might think that your employees and the candidates you’re hoping to attract want a company culture that’s fun and free. Xbox in the lounge!

But what they really want is to feel safe and supported.

Your employees and future candidates look to your company culture and values as a reflection of how they will and should be treated. Understanding how your company is viewed by employees, both current and prospective, can help you then understand the type of talent you attract and keep. In honor of Employee Appreciation Day, March 1, take a couple of minutes to think about how your company’s culture, values, and perks align, and what impact that has on your bottom line.

Perks aren’t just fun and games: team lunches and beer tastings have their place, but there are benefits that have more meaning and reflect the culture you want to embrace. If being direct is an important value at your company, encouraging feedback and rewarding transparency will help reinforce that part of your culture. And gathering information from employees with anonymous reporting apps like STOPit can help facilitate the process of reporting behavior and function as a premium perk that helps companies address behavior proactively.

Assess Your Current Culture — And React

And according to a survey by Deloitte, company culture is the second most important priority, behind pay, for millenials when they are considering a role at a company. The same survey also says 60 percent of millennials are predicted to leave their current company by 2020. What you do now in regards to workplace culture can impact if or how that projection effects your organization.

As workplace culture is obviously important to attracting and retaining talented employees, particularly millennials, addressing the issues behind these statistics could mean the difference between your company thriving or failing. And the difference between keeping a great staff or losing them due to toxic behaviors that senior management is either enabling or unaware of.

More and more business leaders are taking steps to assess their current culture, identifying areas for improvement, gathering information from employees with anonymous reporting apps like STOPit, and training employees on what is and is not acceptable workplace behavior. Clearly articulating your core values, fostering open communication, offering robust onboarding and mentoring programs, and modeling best behaviors can help align every member of your team around a shared and thriving set of expectations.

Workers Are Tuned in to Incidents Of Discrimination

A study by the Institute for Public Relations and leading global communications and engagement firm Weber Shandwick says that nearly 60 percent of all employed Americans report that they have seen or heard about some form of discrimination at their workplace, and millennials are more likely to be attuned to these issues.

“It has long been understood that diversity and inclusion initiatives are essential for business success but also for career choices being made by millennials,” said IPR Trustee and Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist Leslie Gaines-Ross in a press release.

Unfortunately, even with the best training, decision making, and leadership, discrimination and harassment can still occur. Educating and empowering your employees to utilize reporting methods to share (without fear) any issues they see at work can help senior staff address potential issues before they become major problems.

Get Ahead Of These Issues (Or Face Unnecessary Risks)

To help prevent workplace harassment and discrimination, companies need to create environments where employees feel comfortable anonymously reporting incidents, and develop  an effective process to hold workers accountable.

STOPit offers completely anonymous reporting via a mobile app. With an interface like texting the app is easy for employees to use discreetly while on the job to report harassment, discrimination, favoritism, fraud, and other issues. Back end incident management systems help employers directly follow up with employees anonymously to gather more information, while ensuring secure evidence collection and compliance. STOPit can also automate a company’s current processes to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of investigations.

“A company who wants to maximize results takes the results of reporting and assessment and then connects management and employees with education content rooted in proven, actionable solutions,” said Roger Duffield, President of in2vate, a risk management program.

To learn more about how workplaces are integrating data and anonymous reporting to satisfy compliance requirements and improve company culture, click here.

And although the right data and tools are important to success, continued improvement is just as dependent on continued learning and continued implementation. A thriving company culture, the kind that millennials seek out and stay at, are found at organizations that actively gather feedback and then act on what they learn. And when the right values are being upheld and the right behaviors are in place, it’s still important to continue monitoring issues like pending investigations and recently filed complaints, to help proactively spot and address cultural risks and vulnerabilities.

Call STOPit today to learn more about how companies are using mobile technology to protect their corporate cultures.

Women In Tech: Fixing The ‘Leaky Pipeline’

Gender diversity is a necessity for business success, but the “leaky pipeline,” where women disappear from career and leadership trajectories at all stages of their career, still impacts women in corporate settings of all sizes.

A report from the Kapor Center gives tech companies a how-to guide on repairing that “leaky pipeline.” Even though the gender gap is widely discussed, women continue to leave or get left behind at every step of their career—from entry level positions to management roles. The report identified some of the underlying reasons women have issues in tech companies, including:

  • Biases in recruiting and hiring
  • Limited access to social networks dominated by men
  • A toxic workplace culture, harassment, inequitable pay, bias in promotion-that cause a decrease in job satisfaction and high turnover

“We have a problem, and we need to work together to solve it,” Freada Kapor Klein, a partner with Kapor Capital and founder of the Level Playing Field Institute, said to USA Today.

While the tech sector channels their innovative thinking into interventions that work, on-the-job training about appropriate workplace behavior and anonymous reporting opportunities like the STOPit app can be an immediate help to reduce the number of women who quit a job due to suffering through a toxic culture.

The High Cost of A Toxic Work Culture

Turnover isn’t just expensive, it hurts morale and can take away much needed expertise and invaluable institutional knowledge. There are more serious costs for businesses too: low morale and high employee turnover can damage a company’s reputation and threaten its future success.

Business leaders, from small startups to gigantic corporations, need to develop and lead an inclusive and supportive culture to retain high-performing employees. Tammy Perkins left a series of leadership roles at Amazon and Microsoft to become Chief People Officer and Managing Partner of Fjuri, a cutting-edge marketing startup.

“One of the most difficult parts of starting a new company is focusing on growth, while taking time to create the team structure you need to support that growth,” said Perkins in an interview with INC.

Every company has a culture that is constantly evolving and changing. Culture is not something you have, it is something you do.

Improve results for recruitment and retention. Limit liability. Learn more.

“Intertwined with the way you work as a team is your culture—and great cultures start with a foundation of empowerment, engagement and accountability,” said Perkins.

Tech Solutions for Tech Problems

Not every startup can boast the same degree of work-culture integrity as Fjuri. Tech startups have had a reputation for having a “bro” culture where women experience pay inequality, sexual harassment, and a discriminatory work environment. That does seem to be changing, however. The ability for leadership to be nimble and pivot, qualities that are integral to a successful startup, have also allowed many tech companies — big and small — to change their culture and offer women a place to thrive.

And now is the time for every company to conduct a frank self-assessment of their culture and make that change: A report from Gallup found that nearly half of female employees say they are actively looking for a different job or watching for new opportunities.

In a recent study, 70% of women surveyed by Forbes said they felt that the #MeToo movement had no impact on their workplace. So while equal pay, satisfying working conditions, investment in your health, and a large percentage of women at every management level may help identify companies that are good employers for women, there is still work to be done.

“I have been working on diversity in tech for many decades. It’s sobering to see the lack of progress,” said Kapor Klein.

The Bottom Line

Companies can improve the working conditions for their female employees by creating a better and more accountable culture, establishing training programs covering appropriate workplace behavior, and offering anonymous reporting opportunities like the STOPit mobile app, a simple, fast and powerful tool that empowers individuals to protect themselves and others.

Call STOPit today to learn how companies of all sizes are using STOPit’s mobile technology solution to promote and protect their corporate cultures.

WeTip Anonymous Reporting Empowers Citizens to Thwart Welfare Fraud

Image courtesy of GotCredit on Flickr

As citizens of the wealthiest nation on earth, Americans are committed to providing a social safety net for friends, neighbors and even strangers who are going through tough times. But they have little patience for people who take advantage of their generosity, and those who cross that line risk paying a price.

Dating back to the legislative initiatives of the New Deal and the Great Society, America has had a suite of welfare programs in place, from unemployment insurance to food stamps, to help people meet their basic needs. Although the screening process for this aid is rigorous, a small percentage of cheaters do manage to game the system. Those who are caught often make the wrong kind of headlines, fueling outrage that places political support for the programs – and the honest taxpayers who rely on them – in jeopardy.

It’s impossible to say how widespread welfare fraud really is in the U.S. Studies have pegged the percentage of recipients cheating by one means or another as low as the low single digits to as high as one-third to half. What no one disputes, though, is that rooting out cheaters is costly and difficult.

The manpower required to monitor welfare is expensive and staffing levels are stretched too thin to put every application under a microscope. As a result, states are increasingly turning to taxpayers to help police the system with anonymous tip lines.

STOPit’s partner WeTip is an industry leader in welfare fraud reporting, having served the nation with anonymous tip programs for nearly 50 years. Since 2006, WeTip has received over 29,000 anonymous tips regarding welfare fraud, leading to thousands of convictions, according to company CEO Sue Aguilar. In Los Angeles County alone, the WeTip Welfare Fraud Program thwarted hundreds of scams in its first five years, saving taxpayers over $18 million, she said.

“More people than ever are reaching out and turning in someone they suspect of welfare fraud,” Aguilar said. “The WeTip Program is successfully attacking welfare fraud one case at a time.”

All allegations are assigned to a special investigations unit to assess their veracity. Those who are found to be in violation can face penalties from mandatory restitution payments to jail time. Often, citizens reaching out to report fraud will share other information of interest to law enforcement.

One key to WeTips success is that their operators are trained to route tips appropriately and send to associated agencies when needed. A fraud call may uncover other issues in the community as these fraud cases can be complex. “Many, many times, the WeTip informant will give additional information regarding child and elder abuse. Those tips are also relayed to child and adult protective services,” Aguilar said.

For information on implementing an anonymous welfare fraud reporting program in your community, call WeTip at (909) 987-5005 ext. 230. Live operators staff the phones 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. WeTip has no taping, tracing or caller ID. Contact WeTip if your community or service would like to add a tip line.

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