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Taking Measure of STOPit’s 2019-20 School Year Incident Data: Trends and Expectations

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Get ready for the back to school bump. Six years’ worth of anonymous reporting data collected from over 5,000 schools that have used STOPit shows a consistent spike in reports of bullying and other harmful behaviors during the first few weeks of the school year.

If the usual pattern holds, administrators can expect an initial dribble of activity when kids first return to class. Then, between the second and fourth weeks of school, anonymous reports will surge. Unfortunately, many of them are bound to carry news of bullying incidents as no matter whether kids are starting school in person or virtually, bullying continues to be a pernicious, persistent threat to our K-12 students.

The first days of school are always an exciting, and often stressful time for young learners, many of whom will carry a palpable sense of optimism and curiosity into the classroom with them. They’ll walk through the doors (or hop on that Zoom call) wondering what their new teachers are like, who’s in their class, or how life in their next grade will be different from the last. But administrators should keep in mind that for the bully, it’s also a prime time for grooming victims.

In these crucial first days, bullies will take measure of the kids they interact with, testing the waters to find out how they’ll respond to being pushed around or humiliated. This intimidation includes a shove in a hallway or lunchroom as well as cyberthreats, cyberstalking and cyberbullying on social media and group chats. The bully will certainly be emboldened if the victims don’t stand up for themselves – and no one else does either. And that’s why it is so important that students who witness the abuse serve as upstanders. Upstanders can help protect others (and ultimately themselves) and they’re more likely to do so if they don’t have to risk their own safety by confronting the bully themselves.

In fact, one of the many benefits to an anonymous reporting solution like STOPit, is that it provides students a means to stand up for themselves and others without any fear of retaliation or embarrassment. STOPit’s anonymous reporting app looks and functions just like a text messaging system, providing students with a familiar and easy means for carrying on conversations with school administrators that can help them investigate.

Incidents Rose During Virtual Changeover

People might assume that a tool like STOPit wouldn’t be as important at a time when many schools are not even holding in-person instruction.The data strongly suggests otherwise.

The top five reporting days of the year all occurred in the days leading up to the mass closures of schools due to COVID-19: March 5, Feb. 26, Feb. 27, Feb. 25 and March 6. An analysis of 2019-20 school year data also revealed that the percentage of threat reports that were of a violent nature more than doubled between March 15 and June 30, 2020 compared to the July 1, 2019, to March 14, 2020, period that preceded it.

Parkhill Mays, STOPit Solutions’ President & CFO/COO, had the following to say regarding incident data from the past year: “The COVID-19 environment has brought with it an even greater need to provide ways for young people to reach out for help when they are in distress. The large increase in life safety issues over the last 6 months is unfortunately consistent throughout our industry.”

Teachers and administrators should also keep in mind that the combination of virtual schooling and social distancing measures have pushed students’ social lives further online than ever before, to platforms such as social media, group texts and chat sites. These realms are out of view of educators and parents and are therefore ripe for problems that can follow kids into the classroom, including cyberbullying and also predatory behaviors from dangerous adults hoping to take advantage of a young person’s feelings of anxiety, depression and social isolation.

With STOPit, kids can take screenshots of what they see and notify the school before a bad situation grows worse. They can also safely send up a call for help on behalf of a classmate who is feeling too traumatized to reach out and ask for themselves.

Just the facts: Highlights from the 2019-20 school year

Each year, STOPit Solutions compiles a comprehensive picture of incident reports in its K12 community. This information helps us create an accurate picture of the threats our kids face (and report) and gives us insight into how we can better protect, support and encourage them.

All told, according to the 2019-2020 report, STOPit’s 5,212 school customers received 36,314 reports. The mobile app carried the vast majority of them (73%), while the online reporting app was responsible for 25% and the combination of the STOPit Admin system and phone hotline covered the remaining 2%.

Interestingly, (and perhaps encouraging considering the additional stress due to coping with COVID) despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus, the types of incidents reported in high volumes generally remained consistent with those of prior years. The following is a list of the top five incident types reported for the 2019-20 school year along with that incident type’s historic average, according to data from 2015 through the start of the current school year.

  1. Bullying 12% (13% average)
  2. Misconduct 12% (10% average)
  3. Harassment 11% (10% average)
  4. Substance Abuse 9% (7% average)
  5. Threats 6% (5% average)

Help is available

These are unpredictable times for America’s schools and the stress of coping with the pandemic is weighing on students and their families as well as teachers and school staff. Bullying, harassment and intimidation are, unfortunately, persistent problems for our school-aged children – but there is a solution that equips us and our kids with a powerful ally to fight back against harmful, threatening behavior.

Contact STOPit today to discuss how anonymous reporting can strengthen the flow of information between students and educators, whether classes are being held in person, all virtual or somewhere in-between.

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