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

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.

Threats of Bullying and Harassment Persist [And Worsen] in Schools During COVID-19. Here’s How to Fight Back.

STOPit Solutions offers schools a comprehensive, team-based support program to make onboarding easy for staff and help schools successfully launch the nation’s leading anonymous reporting system.

COVID-19 has impacted the daily lives of nearly every human being around the world. And even after nearly six months of trying to ‘manage’ this pandemic, for those of us living in the United States, back-to-school situations are still in flux. The truth is, this is still a very new, very dangerous health crisis and we are all having to adjust to a new way of life that is constantly changing.

Administrators, teachers and staff are all working hard to create a ‘new normal’ while school buildings remain—or are again—shuttered. They are also developing new ways to engage with students attending classes in-person, fully remote or negotiating a hybrid of both.

Add concerns like the increased threat of cyberbullying, and, needless to say, they have their hands full. But with STOPit, schools can be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to dealing with incidents of inappropriate behavior that lead to avoidable issues. Everything about STOPit is designed to save time and reduce workload, including our virtual onboarding and launch capabilities.

 The Right Answer? Let’s Do What Works Best For You.

That’s right, STOPit, the nation’s leading Anonymous Reporting System, can get our comprehensive reporting solution in the hands of staff and students either in-person or virtually – or both – depending on your school’s circumstances.

“Our new customer experience means that once you’ve signed, your account representative will transition you over to onboarding, when you’re ready,” says Cindy Moore, Onboarding Specialist for STOPit Solutions. ”Then your personal Onboarding Specialist will get you set up and lead you through the onboarding journey.”

“You’ll get our welcome letter, which outlines what the onboarding process will look like,” Moore continues. “We then walk you through the steps to get started on STOPit Admin.”

STOPit Admin is the easy-to-use incident management system for reports submitted via the STOPit app, website or hotline. From STOPit Admin, administrators can follow-up on incidents, send out notifications, run analytics and trend reports, and much more. And it’s completely customizable for schools: administrators can set custom alerts, incident tags or other trackable factors, create folders, and organize data in whatever way is beneficial to a school’s unique character and schedule.

“After the introductory communication welcoming you to the STOPit community, the next step is to attend an onboarding session,” says Moore. “During this training, we encourage you to go in and test the system. This way when you go live, you’ll have experience with the full STOPit solution.”

STOPit provides comprehensive onboarding and training for administrators and a detailed launch plan for students. This includes delivering age-appropriate, functionally sensitive guidance on how to recognize safety, misconduct, and/or compliance concerns, whether we are engaging in-person, or via virtual learning. An onboarding specialist leads this training, demonstrating how to download the app and log in to the Admin dashboard, as well as how to log incidents, and respond to or escalate those incidents. During onboarding, school staff also learn how to view and manage reports, another task made easy thanks to the app’s intuitive user interface.

Ready For Launch.

After successfully completing onboarding, schools choose a launch date that works best for them. Depending on the size of the school, the average time from onboarding to launch is typically 3 to 6 weeks – but it can be done in as little as a week from the first conversation if a quick launch if needed.

Prior to the launch date, schools are provided with a launch kit that best serves their needs for an in-person or a virtual launch. The launch kit has been designed with the needs of students, staff and administrators in mind and is updated to include helpful feedback from users. The kit contains all of the tools and resources needed to successfully implement the STOPit platform, including:

  • Flyers (printed versions are used for an in-person launch)
  • Videos for students, staff and parents
  • Student assembly agenda
  • Staff meeting agenda
  • Press release template

These materials have been designed to make it easy and fun for schools to launch, and include suggestions for an in-person student assembly (in small groups and observing all health and safety guidelines, of course!) or virtual activities, if that’s what’s best for the school community.

“If the school plan is to hold classes virtually, and an entire class needs to log-on together, that time is a great opportunity to show the virtual launch video and watch it together,” says Moore. “And since we know that each school may be managing a little differently right now, the STOPit Onboarding Team is happy to conduct a needs assessment with schools to customize these tools to be even more helpful.”


Is This Relationship Serious? You Bet. 

STOPit schools are unanimously delighted to find that their STOPit customer support doesn’t end after they launch. Post-launch, the STOPIt Customer Care team follows up to make sure things are going well and continues to provide additional assistance a school may require to get the most and best impact from this powerful solution. The ultimate goal is for every school to be able to manage the STOPit Admin and App according to their own, sustainable process, and STOPit’s Customer Care Team is always working to make reaching this goal easier, and even [dare we say it?] fun.

 “What helps distinguish STOPit from other solutions is that you’ve got a dedicated team that is invested in your success, and in making it as easy as possible for you to adopt use of these tools successfully,” says Moore.

 Get the STOPit Solution, today.

With both in-person and virtual onboarding and launch options available, STOPit is designed to save you time and reduce your workload. Not only is it a solution designed to address issues before they become a crisis, STOPit can also be a powerful deterrent: students often start to think twice before making a bad decision. Fewer bad decisions lead to fewer incidents, which translates into a happier, healthier school environment with much less stress for everyone.

Contact STOPit today to learn how our solution can help protect your student’s well-being throughout the COVID-19 crisis – and beyond.

Cyberbullying is on the rise.

STOPit Solutions is committed to helping schools across the country create safer, kinder and more inclusive communities for kids and staff. In addition to the [understandably] increased anxiety about how to conduct instruction during COVID-19, we recognize that the persistent threats of bullying and harassment haven’t diminished – at all. In fact, according to incident reports submitted by STOPit schools during the final two quarters of the 2019-2020 school year, they have increased due to cyberbullying.

For more information about the impact of cyberbullying during COVID-19 and some resources to help recognize the threat and to get (or offer) help, visit STOMP OUT BULLYING’s resource page, Cyberbullying During COVID-19.

Show, Don’t Tell: Businesses Need to Use Every Tool Available to Promote and Protect Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

Sweeping, societal change doesn’t happen quietly. The murder of George Floyd gave rise to scenes on America’s streets that seemed unthinkable a few months ago – entire police departments taking a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement; multicultural demonstrations filling public squares in all 50 states during a lethal pandemic.

But the backlash has been aggressive and often cruel. It has welled up to the surface in the form of police brutality, incendiary politics and hateful behavior on social media.

It’s everyone’s problem.

American workplaces will face an enormous challenge in a few weeks when students go back to school and their parents head back to their offices for the first time in six months. It will be the first time many have had to talk about hot button subjects like the protests, the renaming of the Redskins, the toppling of Confederate statues, and all of the ways our world has transformed in a matter of weeks. The people engaging in these conversations will already be stressed to the limit by the pandemic and charged by all the presidential election rhetoric.

At a time like this, empowering every employee to effectively fight against racism and hostile behavior could hardly be more important. An ignorant remark could spark an argument that escalates out of control and destroys your office chemistry. Overheard banter between a few white employees could make a person of color on the team feel upset to the point of quitting.

Technology empowers diversity and inclusion initiatives 

Over the last couple of years, diversity and inclusion technologies (D&I) have shown growing promise for leveling the playing field for minorities in the corporate world. A study by RedThread Research and Mercer found that the largest percentage of D&I technology solutions today are focused on talent acquisition and retention, including systems that mute information on resumes that might unconsciously trigger bias in the reviewer; analytics programs that can reveal trends like pay gaps among various groups; and systems that foster development/advancement opportunities for and greater retention of minority employees.

Amazon and IBM are trying to improve the situation by taking technologies off the market that could potentially foster bias and discrimination. Within days of Mr. Floyd’s death, both tech giants announced they would no longer sell their controversial facial recognition programs to law enforcement agencies. The systems have been found to match white faces with almost perfect accuracy but perform significantly worse with darker faces, creating false matches that could lead to arrests or worse.

For businesses to thrive, this work is non-negotiable:  eliminate racism now.

When it comes to racial equality, the time for empty promises and sweeping problems under the rug is over. A company that hopes to thrive in the 21st century needs to be powered by a diverse staff whose members feel they are welcome and have zero doubt that they can grow within the organization. Technology can be part of the solution.

Tools like STOPit Solutions are being adopted by companies in industries across the United States to help combat racism, harassment and exclusion. STOPit’s intuitive user interface makes it safe and easy for employees to protect themselves and their co-workers when reporting threats and harmful incidents, and just as easy for workplace administrators to respond in real-time to de-escalate and resolve issues. The built-in incident management and reporting functions make the tool an attractive option for HR teams of all sizes. 

Contact STOPit today to learn how our solution can help enable and empower your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Additional resources:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

How to Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM)

Independence Day: A Time to Reflect on Just How Much We Need Each Other.

Before placing his iconic signature on the Declaration of Independence in 1776, John Hancock turned to his fellow Continental Congress delegates and remarked, “There must be no pulling different ways. We must all hang together.”

“Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together,” Benjamin Franklin replied. “Or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

One of history’s great wits nested a profound point in his gallows humor: It takes unity and common purpose to stand up to a powerful aggressor. It’s as true of fighting the mighty British Army as it is a clique of cyberbullies, bigotry in the office, or sexual harassment by a superior at work.

As we celebrate our nation’s birth this weekend, let’s also consider how we can encourage those in our schools, workplaces and communities to “hang together” with victims of injustice and maltreatment. Sometimes, the weight of confronting their problems is too much to bear on their own.

“Look at the traditional motto of the United States, ‘E pluribus unum – Latin for ‘out of many, one’ — and how relevant its meaning is for us during these trying times,” said Melissa Straub, founder of High Impact Youth Training Solutions, which provides educational training and guidance on issues directly affecting youth, schools, and communities. “One person can truly make an impact and encourage, if not implement, positive change or momentum. One act of kindness, courage, empathy and standing up can change a person’s situation and perception in that moment.”

Anonymous reporting can be a powerful agent for such change. There are any number of reasons why a witness to bullying or harassment won’t stand up for the victim on the spot. Fear of retaliation, of being labeled a snitch, of getting involved in a dispute between strangers, these can all be potent deterrents. That doesn’t mean the witness doesn’t want to help. STOPit offers them a way to pass on important information to trusted authorities and make the situation better – without worrisome barriers.

“We all need to be part of the change, part of the solution and be accountable to each other’s wellbeing,” Straub said. “Reporting is a way to be heard, a voice not to fall on deaf ears, and has proven to make a difference.”

Such was the case when a student used STOPit to let her school know she was worried about a friend who was having problems at home, was cutting herself and sharing suicidal thoughts. The school received the report and informed law enforcement, who performed a health check on the student. It was determined that she needed help and she immediately began receiving counseling.

Of course, the mix of mental health issues combined with access to weapons has been a formula for repeated tragedy in the U.S. Many districts have adopted STOPit as an extra safety layer in their strategies to prevent school shootings. It may have already saved lives.

Recently a student riding the bus to school spotted a weapon in another student’s backpack. The alert rider submitted a report which was fielded by STOPit’s 24/7 Incident Monitoring Service professionals, who rapidly notified the district. School officials met the bus as it pulled in, escorted the student off and seized the weapon before it ever entered the school.

Police agencies are also using STOPit as means to enlist the eyes and ears of upstanders in their communities. Anonymous tips delivered with photo and video evidence have solved crimes in places like Camden, New Jersey – a city which gained national recognition during the George Floyd protests for improving relations between its police and citizenry to reduce crime.

“We’re going to try anything to reach out to the community to open those channels of communication,” Camden County Police Community Commander Lt. Zsakhiem James told FOX 29 about STOPit.

This Independence Day, let’s all take a moment to think about our interdependence. By standing up for each other, we not only help another person, we also protect and promote our own liberty and freedoms – doing our part to build a safer, more inclusive community for all.

Contact STOPit Solutions today to learn how anonymous reporting can encourage upstanders in your community, workplace or school.

Open for Business: What it Means to be Safe at Your Workplace During the Year of the Pandemic

Ready or not, here we come. With the first virtual school year and first corporate quarter of universal work-from-home in history apparently drawing to a close, American workplaces have begun making the methodical decisions and investments necessary to reopen.

A survey of U.S. employers by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that about half expect to bring their staffs back by the end of July. However, (most of) the offices and workspaces employees return to are going to look and feel a lot different than they did during the pre-pandemic era. Among the measures companies are taking to protect their workers:

  • A large majority will enforce new social distancing policies, including limits on the number of people in common areas (83%), spacing work stations further apart (79%) and adding partitions between workers and/or customers (69%).
  • Organizations will reduce the numbers of people on-site at any given time through limits on workers (81%), staggered breaks and shift start/stop times (75%) and limits on customers (78%).
  • Enhanced cleaning procedures will be the norm and nearly 9 in 10 will require the use of hand sanitizer and/or hand-washing before entering certain locations.
  • 86% will require the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves, and 80% of those employers will provide and pay for it.

But keeping workers physically safe is only half of the challenge. Equally important will be making workers feel safe. Resources from SHRM like its COVID-19 Back-to-Work checklist and tech tools like STOPit Solutions’ anonymous reporting and communications app are playing important roles in the transition back to a more ‘normal’ work experience. 

Even with the most thoughtful plan and effective procedures, however, it won’t be easy as anxiety levels remain high. A majority of Americans believe a second wave of COVID-19 is around the corner and that the re-opening process is moving too fast. At the same time, resistance to social distancing measures has solidified among those who believe the risk of COVID-19 has been overblown.

Many a clip has gone viral on social media showing arguments like this one between a Costco employee and a customer who refused to wear a mask on the grounds that he “woke up in a free country.” The customer filmed the employee, who held his ground and said into the camera, “Hi everyone. I work for Costco and I’m asking this member to put on a mask because that is our company policy.”

Costco President and CEO Craig Jelinek backed the employee, stating, “We know some members may find [the requirement to wear a face covering] inconvenient or objectionable, but under the circumstances we believe the added safety is worth any inconvenience. This is not simply a matter of personal choice; a face covering protects not just the wearer, but others too.” In fact, a mounting body of evidence has shown that the use of face masks has been highly effective in slowing transmission of the disease.

Costco’s response offers a critical lesson for managers who will soon lead their staffs into uncharted waters. There is no 100% perfect way to re-open – but once you’ve settled on your ground rules, everyone needs to be held accountable for following them – no exceptions. This is especially important as senior management considers the implications of not having an updated policy on health and safety standards. Businesses who reopen without the right tools and accommodations may run the risk of increased exposure to liability claims from employees who fall ill from COVID-19.

Clear, evidence-based actions boost morale and protect Health (and productivity!)

This is a fluid time, when decision-makers in government and industry are doing their best to combat a disease in an environment of rapidly evolving understanding and an avalanche of mis- and even dis-information. Some workers literally fear for their lives. They are counting on management to take the danger seriously and embrace any resource available to protect them.

Employees are not interested in getting caught up in a culture war debate about masks or keeping 6 feet apart. They just want to survive and keep their families safe. If employees don’t feel management is 100% in their corner on the issue, staff retention is bound to suffer. No matter how poor the job market, people will not endure the risk to their health, word will travel about their poor perception of your company culture, and possibly negatively influence your ability to recruit top candidates.

STOPit can play an important role in maintaining staff morale in these crucial months to come. As time goes on, some employees will undoubtedly begin testing their companies’ new safety policies and even bullying or harassing co workers who feel and behave very differently regarding safety protocols. The STOPit app could be used to empower employees who feel threatened or are being ridiculed to safety, anonymously alert management – either for themselves or for fellow co-workers – letting them know about safety violations and/or incidents of bullying and intimidation. Because the STOPit app protects anonymity, employees can ask for help and be spared the need to engage in uncomfortable confrontations that may even pose a threat to their health.

STOPit’s integrated messaging function and incident management system creates an intuitive, professional virtual ‘safe space’ where employers can respond to requests for help and better maintain morale and trust essential to a healthy corporate culture, and especially important during a time of change and uncertainty.

Contact STOPit Solutions today to learn more about how its technology platform and services can help ease your staff’s transition back to the workplace.

Helpful resources

CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 page

National Alliance on Mental Illness COVID-19 Resource and Information Guide

The National League of Cities COVID-19 Pandemic Response Website

SHRM’s (Society for Human Resource Management) COVID-19 Back-to-Work Checklist

Senior Year Stress: The Impact of a High School Senior Year Interrupted.

Right about now, they’d be practicing their procession toward the stage with the school band. Right about now, they’d be planning a “senior cut day” to the beach. Right about now, they’d be anxiously awaiting dorm assignments, planning backyard graduation parties, spending time with lifelong friends from whom they’d soon be separated.

“I expected to be stressed, but stressed about the good things,” Dunbar High School senior De’Asia Scott observed to WTOP radio in Washington, D.C. “But in reality, I’m stressed about the same thing that everybody else is stressed about.”

That would be COVID-19, the destroyer of plans for America’s high school seniors. As the spring transitioned to summer, the coronavirus graduated from a threat that disrupted school schedules to one that is forcing students to rethink the first steps of their new lives.

Those who choose not to go the college route will soon enter a job market with unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression. Entire industries are shut down across the country — some poised to reopen this summer, but with the specter of a fall coronavirus resurgence looming large.

That prospect hasn’t been lost on the nation’s soon-to-be university freshmen. With higher-ed institutions already announcing remote or hybrid semesters in the fall, the odds of completing an uninterrupted term in person are clearly in doubt.

In a Carnegie Dartlett survey of 2,800 high school seniors, 33% said they’d defer or cancel their admission if classes were going to be held remotely. They want the college experience of their dreams – one where they’ll meet new friends, live away from their parents and enjoy all that campus life offers – and aren’t willing to sacrifice it for another indefinite string of months doing Zoom meetings. The idea of a gap year has even gained support with many parents, who are skeptical of paying full tuition for virtual learning.

High stress. High stakes.

The decisions today’s seniors face are difficult and carry great consequences. Not surprisingly, the emotions they’re experiencing are being shared across the globe.

According to research commissioned by Cluey Learning, 90 percent of Australian seniors reported feeling stressed by this year’s school disruptions, with a majority finding it even more troubling than typical teen factors like friendship pressures, family issues and body image concerns.

“The class of 2020 are under enormous pressure, and it’s understandable that their study is being impacted,” Cluey Chief Learning Officer Dr. Selina Samuels said. “But this is a unique opportunity for senior students to build resilience by learning how to manage their stress. If students can adapt to these changing circumstances, they’ll find that not only do they have a brilliant story to tell during interviews, but that they’ll approach everything else in life with just a little more confidence.”

Kids don’t need to go it alone. There’s help – and hope.

Certainly the only thing we know for sure right now is that the future is even more unpredictable than ever. But as Dr. Samuels acknowledged, the challenges that this year’s high school seniors face can also serve as opportunities to build emotional resilience and practice healthy self-care principals – two goals that are very possible thanks to new and refocused mental health and wellness resources available through federal, and local organizations.

For schools in the STOPit Solutions community, STOPit offers a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Center containing an easy-to-search database of thousands of articles, studies, video, audio and other content that can help school administrators assist with today’s elevated teen stress levels. The content is carefully curated by top experts in SEL-related fields and can be shared with individual students or broadcast to the full student body through the STOPit app.

In light of current events, STOPit is also offering a number of free and paid webinars, videos, and SEL resources on its website to aid educators in engaging with students. To view this content, visit https://stopitsolutions.com/covid-19/.


Additional Resources from the STOPit Blog

Additional Mental Health and Wellness Resources

Contact STOPit today and learn more about the anonymous reporting app being used to improve safety, mental health and well-being in more than 6,000 schools, nationwide. 

Masked-Up and Burned-Out: Collateral Damage From The Pandemic Is Taking Its Toll On American Workers

It’s two months into the stay-at-home orders that most states in the US have decreed for non-essential workers and roughly half of Americans are working from home. Amidst all the uncertainty engendered by this pandemic, one thing is for sure – this experience has forever dispelled the notion of telecommuting as something “easier” or “more relaxed” than being in the office.

The physical and mental barriers that once separated our home lives from our work lives have been demolished. When 5 p.m. rolled around in early March, you may have been on the hook to pick up a child from practice or get on a train, so hovering around the office a while longer wasn’t an option. Now the kids live in your office and there’s nowhere to go, so you keep typing away … til 5:27 … 5:52 … 6:23 …

As Bloomberg recently noted, “People have turned their living spaces into makeshift offices, making it nearly impossible to disconnect.” The article profiled John Foster, who like many of us, converted an extra room into a workspace but found it to be a constant reminder of his job while he was off the clock. “’You walk by 20 times a day,’ he said. ‘Every time you pass there, you’re not escaping work.’”

Even by early April, an Eagle Consulting poll of Americans found that 45% were feeling work burnout and 25% directly blamed COVID-19 for it. Among the additional findings:

  •  36% said their organizations were doing nothing to help them deal with burnout
  •  The changes in their lives brought on by COVID-19 made 50% feel less connected to their colleagues and 45% feel less productive
  •  A separate poll conducted by the firm found that 55% feared for their job security due to the coronavirus

“Culture is what holds an organization together, so it’s never been more critical to lean hard into culture during these tough times; to build a sense of community and support among the workforce,” said Melissa Jezior, president and chief executive officer of Eagle Hill Consulting. “If employers can help fill the void employees are feeling, that can empower them to overcome the many obstacles on the road ahead.”

Want To Retain Your Best Employees? Vacation, Vacation, Vacation.

One way companies can reinforce their positive culture is to encourage employees to take time off. Despite the clear need, people are not using their vacation days. Doubtless, some are feeling extra pressure to prove their value at a time when 38 million have filed for unemployment benefits.

This is especially true for workers whose supervisors signal that they don’t trust what they will do when they aren’t under their watchful eye. A word to the wise: Just a few months ago, the job market was so solid that it was hard to find high-quality candidates for open positions. Sooner or later, the pandemic will pass, and the star performers who felt taken for granted will go somewhere else where they will be shown plenty of positive attention.

With travel off the table for most, and even excursions to restaurants out of the question, workers also may not be asking for time off because they feel that there’s nowhere to go. For their own good, urge them to turn off their computers, avoid their work apps and take a short staycation. Promise them that you won’t bombard them with work emails while they’re off, so they don’t come back to a stressful mountain of messages. There’s actually a strong health case for the break.

“Chronic stress takes its toll in part on our body’s ability to resist infection, maintain vital functions, and even ability to avoid injury,” Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne cautioned in Psychology Today. “When you’re stressed out and tired, you are more likely to become ill, your arteries take a beating, and you’re more likely to have an accident.”

Now, as ever, a person’s productivity at work depends on their overall health and wellness – physical as well as mental health. If you’re responsible for recruiting and retention for your organization, make sure you have a plan to encourage all employees to take the time they need (and have earned) to rest and recharge. Good for them, good for your company, too. 

Additional Resources from STOPit Solutions

Want to learn more about STOPit and how anonymous reporting tools are improving employee recruitment and retention across the US? Schedule your demo today.

5 Changes Parents Are Making To Summertime Plans During the Pandemic

“Dad, are we going to have summer this year?”

The question from Matt’s young daughter, Cassady, offered a glimpse into her emotional state. She was feeling the stress and confusion from COVID-19 and worrying whether “normal” would ever return. Matt knew he needed to make her believe it would, and then make it happen.

“Yes, we’re going to have an unforgettable summer,” he reassured her. “It’s going to be a little different than past years, but we’re going to have fun and lots of new adventures.” Matt sat down with Cassady and asked her to brainstorm on all the fun things they could do this summer while social distancing. In just a few minutes, they filled two and a half blank pages.

Meanwhile, he also had to think about Cassady’s older brother, who as a rising seventh-grader, was too old for traditional camp but too young to be totally self-sufficient. The family was taking social distancing guidelines seriously, so letting him go to the beach or play pickup hoops games with his friends was out of the question. Without a plan in place, Matt worried it would be a long summer consumed by video games and social media. 

The bottom line is, summer must go on this year. To ensure children’s social and emotional learning continues, they need regular opportunities to play, exercise and socialize with their peers.

Parents will need to get creative to fill the void left behind by summer camps, family trips, visits with relatives and playing with friends. Amid the uncertainty, they are pivoting to alternatives they know they can rely on whether the pandemic sustains or worsens.

Virtual ‘Camps’

Just like the millions of parents who transitioned to working remotely, traditional summer camps are doing their best to replicate their activities virtually. It’s a formidable challenge for the traditional day camps that thrive on outdoor fun with large groups of kids. “That phrase, ‘social distancing,’ is not really in a camp’s vocabulary,” Ron Hall, executive director of the nonprofit Maine Summer Camps, told CNN. Yet many are ready to try, and are offering financial incentives such as affordable registration fees and steep discounts for next summer’s tuition if you support their business today. Parents should check the offerings at camps in their area, as each is approaching the challenge in its own way and the pandemic’s prevalence varies from place to place.

STEM and Art Classes

Kids can mix up the fun with weekly science and art camps offered both by local businesses and by national leaders in the virtual learning experience space. New Jersey’s Brookdale Community College has partnered with tech-education leader Black Rocket to organize a series of Virtual Summer STEAM Camps offering kids ages 8-14 live lessons in video game design, coding, creating YouTube content, and deep dives into popular games like Minecraft and Fortnight. In-person Lego camps like Bricks 4 Kidz and Snapology have been very effective in moving their operations online, developing daily build challenges for various age groups and even moderating Lego play dates and birthday parties. Local art and culinary camps have adapted, too, offering curbside pickup for supplies that will be used each day for their online lessons. How about a ballet lesson from Misty Copeland or a basketball clinic with Stephen Curry? Teens and tweens can find affordable opportunities to train with their heroes in the arts and sports through online subscription services like MasterClass

Fun Home Improvements

The cost of some camps isn’t far off from a semester of college, yet, many parents work throughout the summer and need safe and healthy day activities for their kids. Fortunately, many of the alternatives emerging now recognize that there needs to be – and should be – affordable options for everyone. 

With the expense of traditional camp off the books for many, some parents are choosing to invest a portion of that savings in equipment and home improvements that can entertain their kids all season long. Outdoor infrastructure like a basketball hoop or volleyball net, or indoor amusements like ping pong or pool tables can make memories (and rivalries) that will last a lifetime. If your child really misses the park, you can order a swing, slide and clubhouse set for the backyard — the assembly may even be a welcome diversion for dad. 

Get Outside

States ruled that outdoor play would be exceptions to the stay-at-home orders for good reason. It’s healthy, it’s safe, and it’s essential for keeping kids active at a time when the entire country, adults included, is basically grounded. Parents with yards should encourage their kids to go outside and give them leeway to do whatever they find fun, even if it’s messy. “Parents worry they don’t have outside activities for their kids, but the reality is children naturally know how to play,” Christy Merrick, director of Natural Start Alliance, observed in National Geographic. It also happens to be a uniquely good time to enjoy the outdoors, as data has shown dramatic improvements in air quality and other environmental conditions since March.

Keep Social While Distancing

With a bit of imagination and a healthy dose of personal responsibility, friends can find ways to spend time together. It’s a matter of figuring out ways to keep far enough away from each other to avoid risk, yet close enough to carry on a conversation. Taking a well-distanced bike ride through the neighborhood can be a great way to exercise and socialize. The same can be said for hikes on a nature trail or even walks through the neighborhood with the kids keeping to opposite sides of the street.

Be Alert for Online Abuse

Of course, the pandemic has driven so much of young people’s social lives online. The use of social media, screen-sharing apps and text messaging have surged as kids try to stay in touch and maintain a semblance of their social lives. With this greater reliance on digital communications comes the increased risk of cyber-bullying and abuse.

Although classes will conclude in a few weeks, schools who have partnered with a reliable anonymous reporting tool like STOPit should continue monitoring their account for reports of abuse, bullying or other threatening and harmful behaviors. And for increased coverage as summer break begins, STOPit’s 24/7 incident monitoring service is a valuable add-on to ensure that any time-sensitive reports receive immediate attention.

Whether it’s this fall or a year from now, America will beat COVID-19 and send its kids back to school. It will be crucial that they aren’t carrying with them tensions that were brewed online, adding to what will already be a stressful situation for school staff, parents and students alike.

Contact STOPit today to learn how it’s anonymous reporting platform can help thwart cyberbullying and conflicts within your student body throughout the summer months.

Act Now: Schools Can Apply to Get STOPit Solutions’ Award-Winning Safety Platform at No Cost

“Don’t wait. There are students who need this right now and students who will need it more than ever when school returns to ‘normal’ from COVID-19.”

–Chris Moddelmog, Executive Director, Smoky Hill Education Service Center

The nation’s Educational Service Agencies (ESA) provide schools with important resources by creating efficiencies and opportunities through strategic partnerships. Not only do they help member districts create financial strength by improving their purchasing power, but they also make it easier for schools to apply for a wide variety of grant funding opportunities available nationwide. These grants are often used to pay for priorities like school safety and student mental health programs. In fact, many ESAs are right now working with partner schools to apply for federal STOP School Violence Act grants that will cover the launch of STOPit’s anonymous reporting platform in schools at no cost to the district.

Among them is the Smoky Hill Education Service Center, which represents public and private school districts in 25 Kansas counties. The ESA and STOPit have already pooled their grant writing expertise to obtain funding to set up the app in 50 school districts. STOPit recently spoke with Smoky Hill Executive Director, Chris Moddelmog, to find out more about this opportunity and what his stakeholders are saying about the grant application and implementation process.

STOPit: What have you heard from your schools about working with STOPit?

“The feedback has been fantastic, from the introductions to the technology to the experience of getting to know more about the organization. Members of the STOPit team are easy to get in touch with and they’re always open to our ideas about the best ways to implement the solution in the schools. All of the schools I’ve talked to say it’s been easy to work with STOPit.”

STOPit: What were your goals for working with STOPit? What benefits did you hope it would bring for your school districts? 

“First and foremost, student health and wellbeing,” says Moddelmog. “We wanted to provide them with a solution that would make a difference. No learning can take place in our classrooms if the students are anxious, fearful and depressed. STOPit’s solutions and the services they offer to counselors and school resource officers are great, and we’d like to make them available to all of our schools. 

I’d also like to use the data collected by the system to learn more about the specific kinds of issues that are being reported in the schools,” he says. “This information will be valuable to our school districts and help us work with them to deliver exactly the kind of help our students need.” 

STOPit: What makes Educational Service Agencies so well-positioned to help schools implement high-level resources like STOPit’s anonymous reporting app and other services?

“For schools that need help with instructional strategies or accessing tools like STOPit, we have those consultants on staff and can send them to schools to get that work done without additional financial or staff burden. We’re also nimble and can sometimes allocate resources more effectively than a small school district can,” says Moddelmog.

“We have close working relationships with our districts,” he continues. “They get calls from everyone under the sun trying to sell them something. We promise our districts that when we bring them something, we’ve answered the questions, ‘Is this something our districts really need and will it provide real value?’ We vet the companies and only suggest opportunities after we’ve conducted due diligence to be able to confidently recommend the service and/or service provider. That’s why we feel completely comfortable recommending STOPit.”

STOPit: ESAs can take advantage of the STOP School Violence Act to acquire federal grants for STOPit services, but time is of the essence. What should ESA administrators be doing right now to ensure their schools can acquire these funds?

“When we partner to apply for STOP School Violence Act grants, the process couldn’t be simpler for schools. Once a district has selected the specific menu of STOPit services that suits its needs, STOPit writes the grant, submits the application, sets up the technology, trains school staff to use it, and helps build excitement for it throughout the student body and community.”

Moddelmog concludes, 

“Don’t wait. There are students who need this right now and students who will need it more than ever when school returns to “normal” from COVID-19. Students and staff will come back and we’ll be dealing with something that they’ve never dealt with before. Schools can either contact STOPit directly to set up a time to demo the app, or they can call me first to talk about the success we’ve seen and our experience.”

Contact STOPit today to learn more about their anonymous reporting platform and how you can work with your regional ESA to implement anonymous reporting in your district, for free.  

The deadline to contact STOPit to affirm interest in this opportunity is May 15. The deadline to submit a grant application for the current grants cycle is June 9, 2020.

Schools are Winning Grants to Improve Safety and Security on Campus: Read How.

“Nothing is easy in education, but they (STOPit Solutions and our ESA) made it very easy to apply for this grant. It was just so nice to be able to go through a process this straightforward.” Kathy Robertson, Support Services and Security administrator, El Dorado Schools District. 

School administrators around the country are taking advantage of an exceptional funding opportunity to improve safety and security at their schools and get STOPit’s anonymous reporting system – at no cost. Educational Service Agencies (ESA’s) are not-for-profit cooperatives that pool important resources for member school districts, making them easier to access and more affordable to taxpayers. Thanks to a special partnership between ESA’s and STOPit Solutions, many schools are getting the grant-writing assistance they need to successfully apply for federal STOP School Violence Grant Program funding, for free. 

Simple Process. Successful Outcomes.

Kathy Robertston and Melanie Burris, representatives from two school districts that successfully applied for funding, share their experience about the application process and why they chose STOPit.

STOPit: Can you briefly describe the process of working with your ESA and STOPit to secure funding?

“A former coworker of mine from another school district reached out to let us know about the opportunity. We were told about an online demo that we could go through to learn more about STOPit and then follow up with any questions,” says Kathy Robertson, Support Services and Security administrator for the El Dorado (Kansas) Schools District. “After it was over, we jumped right on the opportunity. I had to provide STOPit and the ESA with some basic contact information, some numbers for how many kids are in our schools, and that was about it. We started the whole process on December 5; we got our approval on December 13.”

Melanie Burris, Instructional Supervisor and Federal Programs Coordinator for the Dardanelle (Arkansas) Public Schools, shares a similar experience. 

“The process was very easy. The ESA and STOPit worked together on the application, so for us, it wasn’t tedious or time-consuming at all. They handled the bulk of the work – all I had to do was supply some information about our demographics and a few more small details. Whenever I emailed the team with questions, I got immediate responses. We even found out about our grant approval quickly.”

STOPit: Why was implementing an anonymous reporting system like STOPit important for your school district?

“Prior to STOPit, the only option we had was a place that students could go online and fill out a Google survey, and the reports would go to the district’s communications director,” says Robertson. “The State of Kansas also has an anonymous, state-run hotline that students can submit tips to, and that information goes to the State Police, but few kids will use that. We really wanted something more for our district,” she continues. “Something that is customizable and can better accommodate the needs of our students and staff. One very important thing for us is that STOPit has 24-hour monitoring service, so emergencies can be reported day and night, weekend and holidays.”

Burris and her senior administration team had similar reasons for choosing the STOPit app.

“One of the reasons I investigated the tool was that our high school wanted to find a way to allow students to report incidents anonymously. When we learned STOPit was available and we were allowed to try it for free, our principal said, ‘Let’s do it.’,” she says.

“The reporting tools are a big benefit,” Burris continues. “Giving students the ability to report something that they wouldn’t have otherwise – because they know it’s guaranteed to remain anonymous – is a game changer.”

Burris concludes with a note about how COVID-19 has impacted their timetable for launching the tool. But she’s clear that getting started is simple, and they’ve already started training staff to be ready for when students return in the fall.

“We haven’t had the chance to roll it out to students due to COVID-19, but I was able to go through the process of training our principal and assistant principal. STOPit conducted the training with me through Zoom and walked me through all of the different things our schools needed to do to get started. It was straightforward; their customer care team is great, giving us every confidence this will be a tremendous benefit to our kids and school community.” 

Thanks to this partnership between STOPit and ESA’s, the process to apply is simple and the rate of success for obtaining funding is high – 100 percent so far.

We do the work. Schools get the grants. Act now.

STOP Act grants are awarded to help schools improve their security by providing the tools to recognize, respond quickly to, and help prevent acts of violence. 

Contact STOPit today to learn more about the anonymous reporting platform and how you can work with your regional ESA to implement anonymous reporting in your district, for free.  

The deadline to contact STOPit to affirm interest in this opportunity and provide grant input is May 15. The deadline to submit a grant application for the current grants cycle is June 9, 2020.


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