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As the COVID Pandemic Rages On, States Across the U.S. Issue Executive Orders and Introduce Legislation for Screening and Testing Measures to Slow the Spread

Winter is coming — and with it, the possibility of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that’s as disruptive as the one in the spring of 2020. Many school districts have surpassed expectations in their ability to control the virus on campus through a combination of smart scheduling, safety upgrades and rules demanding the use of personal protective equipment. 

But as we approach the holidays, the anxiety is building. Some schools are making the move to hybrid learning for the first time, while others that have been closed all along wonder whether it’s feasible any longer to re-open. Parents and caregivers who re-established a long-lost sense of normalcy in their work routines when schools opened in September are now faced with the frustrating reality that they may need to stay closed after Thanksgiving. A lack of predictability has meant a lack of stability in people’s home and work lives. 

To date, the federal government has largely delegated decisions on school coronavirus testing, monitoring and reporting procedures to the states and local decision-makers. As a result, the approaches to handling COVID-19 have varied widely across the country, and even from school district to neighboring school district. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently enacted a pair of bills that immediately broaden the requirements for schools to report COVID-19 health information. Among the legislation’s impacts, a school that learns of a potential exposure must share the news with its employees, subcontractors and relevant union representatives within a day; impacted employees must receive information about COVID-19 benefits they’re entitled to as well as what steps are being taken to disinfect the facilities and make them safer; and local public health agencies must be notified of “outbreaks” (defined as three or more confirmed or probably positives within a two-week period) within 48 hours. In addition, the law imposes requirements for schools to record data including the dates of positive test results and the number of employees working on-site on the date of a positive test.

STOPit Solutions recently introduced a technology that can help schools in California and elsewhere meet such reporting and monitoring requirements – the SafeScreen Health Reporting System. SafeScreen is a HIPAA-compliant health reporting system that screens-out and alerts users of possible COVID-19 exposed or symptomatic individuals before they set foot in a school building or bus.

The data gathered by those answering the system’s Health Screener questions each day is stored securely in the cloud and can be used to spot critical trends, such as spikes in illnesses. The system is also highly customizable, allowing school administrators to add their own questions of significance or send important messages to users.  

Below is a snapshot of some of the innovative COVID-19 testing and reporting measures that have garnered states and local jurisdictions headlines in recent days.

NEW YORK CITY: The nation’s largest school district began a random testing program in October that could serve as a model for other cities. The plan calls for between 10 and 20% of the district’s 1.1 million student body to be tested each month, with participation voluntary. So far, the results have been promising, with fewer positive cases being detected than many expected. Some believe the data could encourage parents who held their kids out for the remote schooling option to send them back, helping the city step closer toward recovery.

NEW YORK STATE: Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order demanding that doctor’s offices, hospitals and medical labs that are testing patients for COVID-19 or the flu must notify the state if they attend or work in a school. The medical providers must share the test result and the name of the patient’s school within three hours. The data is being collected for public dissemination through New York’s COVID-19 Tracker and School COVID-19 Report Card, which can be used to inform decision-making.

TEXAS: Eight school districts will pilot the use of testing kits funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that can determine within 15 minutes whether a student or faculty member is infected. The Governor’s Office said it will leave it to the school districts to determine the best strategy for deploying the nasal swab tests, although it did note that any testing must be voluntary. That would place the pilot project in line with recently updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines which contain a controversial line stating that it is “unethical and illegal to test someone who does not want to be tested.”

MASSACHUSETTS: The Somerville Public Schools plan to embark on a partnership with Tufts University to conduct “pooled testing” of students when it begins its phased reopening in December. The Boston suburb has been hard hit by the virus and has been providing all virtual instruction since the beginning of the school year. The testing method allows samples from eight students to be analyzed simultaneously, yielding a significant cost reduction vs. conducting eight lab tests. If a positive result is detected, the eight students who provided samples will be re-tested individually to find out which one was sick. The schools are also undergoing a $7 million ventilation upgrade in advance of the re-opening.

NEVADA: Seeking to make its faculty feel more safe and confident in the classroom, the Carson City School District is set to embark on a multi-prong testing and monitoring plan called Task Force Initiative for Educator’s Safety and Screening (TIES). First, all educators will be offered free rapid testing at a pair of drive-through events. With the health of its staff assured, the district aims to help them preserve it with a mobile app designed to identify, track, and manage COVID-19 symptoms and exposures through short and simple self-screening check-ins.

More Information on SafeScreen

To learn more about how SafeScreen can keep your school or organization COVID-free, visit our SafeScreen Program page or thorough FAQs page. Contact STOPit with additional questions or to arrange a demonstration by calling 855-999-0932 or emailing sales@stopitsolutions.com.

Home for the Holidays? Celebrate Safely

Mark is thinking outside the box – that is, the 12-by-19 dining room where his family always gathers for Thanksgiving.

On a crisp fall day, he placed two small propane-powered outdoor heaters that he bought at a hardware store inside a tent and tested how it felt. His holiday plan is to set up a table on the patio, leave one or two of the tent’s four walls open and serve the feast in the fresh air.

“It feels pretty comfortable in there – I think this could work,” he said. “We’ll need some good luck weather-wise and everyone will need to be a good sport about the setup, but I won’t worry about my family’s safety.”

Mark is creatively trying to tackle one of the greatest risks families will face during the holidays. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a series of recommendations for Americans hosting or attending family gatherings and toward the top of the list is the danger of sitting in close quarters in a poorly ventilated room, talking, laughing and eating together.

As The New York Times observed, “Most office buildings, hospitals and restaurants have mechanical ventilation systems that pull outside air inside, push stale air outside and recirculate indoor air through filters. But homes typically don’t have those kinds of ventilation systems, and indoor air changes far more slowly as it leaks through small cracks or gaps around windows and doors. Many homes, in fact, are sealed up tight to make them more energy efficient.”

The CDC stresses that the safest way people can approach the holidays is to avoid gatherings altogether and simply celebrate with the people you live with. It’s advice that the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, will follow. In an interview with CBS News, Fauci said his children, who live in three different states, will not be coming over this year. “They themselves, because of their concern for me and my age, have decided they’re not going to come home for Thanksgiving — even though all three of them want very much to come home for Thanksgiving,” Fauci said.

Even with COVID-19 cases surging, millions of Americans, fatigued from eight months of social distancing and yearning for family time, will make the trip home. Ultimately, the decision comes down to how much risk each family is willing to take on. The following are some simple steps that experts say we can take to cut it down.

Air it Out

This is crucial for slowing a disease that’s primarily transmitted by air. If hosting outside is an option, do it. If the party must be held inside, take advantage of every available option to make sure the area is well ventilated. Choose a room that has windows and/or doors and open them widely. If it’s cold out, crank up the heat – the modest spike in the monthly gas bill is well worth it.

Keep it Short and Sweet

The longer the party and the larger the guest list, the greater the odds of transmission. Come up with a schedule for your gathering in advance and stick closely to it. That may mean eating right away when the guests arrive and moving on right after to dessert. Your home may be the focal point for big family gatherings in normal times, but these are not normal times. People will understand if you decide to keep the get-together to a few immediate family members this time around. If you’ve invited elderly family members or others who are considered at-risk, you have an obligation to protect them.

Know Your Guests

When you’re putting together the guest list, consider the specific circumstances of each potential invitee. Do they live somewhere that’s considered a COVID-19 hot spot or have they recently traveled to one? Are they taking the pandemic seriously and taking the proper precautions in their daily lives? As Dr. Brenda L. Tesini, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, told USA Today, it’s not the time to “get together with a relative who has been quite vocal about not wearing a mask and not social distancing.” You can mitigate the risk if everyone agrees to quarantine for two weeks before the holiday. Anyone who is exhibiting coronavirus symptoms must absolutely stay home.

Food Safety

It will feel foreign, but Thanksgiving rituals like passing around the gravy need to go this year. Come up with a plan for your meal that does not involve a buffet setup, with multiple people touching the same dishes and utensils or breathing on the food. Also, the old adage about “too many cooks in the kitchen” meaning trouble has never been more true. It would be safer if one or two people could handle the cooking duties and make the plates for everyone. If guests can bring their own food this year, all the better.

Be a Smarty at the Party

Approach your gathering with the same mentality that you would when going into the office. Employ all of the provien social distancing tactics that have kept us safe in public places. If you’re indoors, wear a mask when you’re not eating or drinking. Stay at least six feet apart no matter where you are.

STOPit Solutions is doing its part to help communities protect themselves from the virus with its new SafeScreen COVID-19 Health Reporting System. Each day, SafeScreen sends students or workers an email or text requesting that they answer a series of questions guided by the CDC and National Institutes of Health through the system’s Health Screener. Once completed, the user instantly is informed if they are “clear to enter” or “do not enter.” If they are clear, they receive a color-coded “entry pass” to display as they enter school or work. If they receive a “do not enter” pass, then the system administrator is notified and reaches out, via our 2-way chat feature or phone, to assess the situation and provide next steps. The entire screening process takes less than a minute to complete each day.

We sincerely hope that by next Thanksgiving, none of the measures we discussed above will be necessary any longer and the threat of COVID-19 will be a memory. But until then, it’s up to all of us to do what we can to ensure that we and our loved ones will make it there to celebrate together. Have a safe and happy holiday season!

While the City Sleeps, STOPit IMS Agents Keep Vigilant Watch for Emergency Reports

To an account administrator receiving a message when the school is dark and locked up, she’s Agent 02 of STOPit’s Incident Management Center (IMC). But to a student in trouble, Tracy Craig just might be the person who saves the day.

Through the STOPit Incident Management Center, anonymous incident reports sent on nights, weekends and holidays are monitored around the clock by a team of trained professionals. While the campus is quiet, incident management agents like Craig are standing by, prepared to handle any situation brought to their attention by students from thousands of schools from coast to coast. 

“STOPit is proactive and that’s what I love about it. They get in front of the incident before anything escalates or gets out of control,” Craig said. “Because we’re here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we’re able to respond in real time and we’re able to save lives.”

How Off-Hours Reports Are Handled

When a user files a report via the STOPit app, the web or the phone hotline, Craig and her team will first assess its urgency. If it’s a non-life threatening report, no intervention is needed and administrators can properly handle it during standard school hours. But if it’s an emergency, they must move quickly.

The team’s first step is to call the school’s primary emergency contact, no matter what time of day. If the administrator answers, IMC staff can direct the admin to the report  which permits them to communicate directly with the student right away.

If he or she doesn’t answer, the agent will move on to the secondary and third contacts on the list; if they can’t be reached, local law enforcement will be contacted. The IMC has access to translators that can assist with several languages if the report is not filed in English.

As Craig observed, agents like herself are “in the center of it all.” She is not only in direct contact with students and school personnel, but regularly works with STOPit’s technical team on any issues that arise and sometimes receives inquiries that require her to work with sales staff.

Like a 911 operator, a STOPit IMC agent must be prepared for the unpredictable. An analysis of STOPit data from the 2019-20 school year showed that over 36,000 reports were filed systemwide. A wide range of incidents were reported, with the most common types being bullying (12%), misconduct (12%), harassment (11%), substance abuse (9%) and threats (6%).

Agents: Experts Who Care

To perform the role of IMC agent well – and provide customers with the most helpful, most accurate and timely support for each report – it takes a very particular combination of compassionate character, logistical skills and intensive training. 

Craig recalled going through a rigorous interview process which was designed to ensure that prospective agents have both excellent technical skills and a personal drive to help others. This sense of empathy and compassion is also a must in her day job as a worker in the medical field.

Her experience dealing with those in sensitive situations has given her insight into the thinking of students on the other end of the app. Often, she believes, students are going through something that they feel too embarrassed to share with their parents, their doctors or the other authority figures in their lives.

“They’re reaching out for a reason. They’re saying, ‘I feel suicidal, I want to hurt myself.’ So for us to say, hey, we have this student on the line, and for the [administrator] to message that student right then and there, they feel like, ‘My voice is being heard — I’m important.’” Craig says that every member of the IMC team is similarly vetted to make sure every call receives the same expert, compassionate response.

Although she’ll never meet the students making contact with her, Craig can’t help but think of them and sometimes checks the system logs throughout the week for any information that indicates they received the help they needed. And she’s frequently moved by the way STOPit empowers young people to look after their peers.

“I would say a large portion of the incidents received concerning suicide or self-harm are from a friend reporting about their best friend, who stated he or she wanted to kill themselves or just texted them that they want to end their life,” she said. “It’s a great way for a friend to anonymously help their friend without being exposed and jeopardizing the relationship.”

For More on STOPIt’s Incident Management Center

If you’re not signed up for STOPit IMC, visit the IMC page on our website today to set up a demo or learn how to add it to your school or organization’s package. STOPit is committed to making services like the IMC center work better for you. From the onboarding process to launch and beyond, our customer care team will reach out to gather your input on how STOPit can be improved and tailored to meet your needs. 

National Suicide Prevention Designation Act, Signed Into Law

Recently the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act was signed into law. 988, is the new three-digit access code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is scheduled to go live by July 2022.

For now, please continue to share 1-800-273-TALK (8255) with anyone wishing to connect to the Lifeline. More information about this resource is here

Mental Health and Wellness Resources

COVID-19 Impact In The Classroom: Keeping Students And Staff Safer With STOPit SafeScreen

Hats off to America’s school administrators – what you’re doing is working. Although we’ve seen pockets throughout the country that have experienced COVID-19 spikes, school districts have largely controlled its spread through aggressive social distancing measures and science-based precautions.

But as we get into the fall, maintaining this balance won’t be easy. The onset of the traditional flu and allergy season will apply a greater strain on schools as they work to keep sick students out of their classrooms. Recently, STOPit Solutions announced the launch of a new mobile app that is helping schools do that: The SafeScreen COVID-19 Health Reporting System.

Each day, SafeScreen sends users an email or text requesting that they answer a series of questions guided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the system’s Health Screener. Once completed, the user instantly is informed if they are “clear to enter” or “do not enter.” If they are clear, they receive a color-coded “entry pass” to display as they enter school or work. If they receive a “do not enter” pass, then the system administrator is notified and reaches out, via our 2-way chat feature or phone, to assess the situation and provide next steps. The entire screening process takes less than a minute to complete each day.

The HIPPA-compliant system is inexpensive (less than 50 cents on average for every student), can be implemented in 1-4 days, and can potentially save lives. Here are some of the ways it can make a difference.

Keeping Sick Students Home

Mask requirements. Plexiglass desk partitions. Outdoor classrooms. Schools have been thorough and creative in making social distancing measures work on their campuses, but even the best of them can’t totally prevent COVID’s spread if there are infected students in class. SafeScreen cuts that risk by helping to ensure infected students never set foot on school grounds.

Gathering Critical Data

Districts can collect a trove of data to spot critical trends by students and staff members filling out their Health Screener questions every day. For example, administrators can use the data to identify spikes in illnesses – whether it be COVID-19 or something less concerning – in specific schools, classes, bus routes or other vectors.

Minimizing Exposure

Many schools and businesses are attempting to filter out unhealthy entrants at their own front doors. Equipped with thermometers and questionnaires, these front-line workers can’t do their jobs without getting physically close to the people they’re screening. SafeScreen eliminates the need for any in-person contact.

Breaking up the Lines

In-person screening procedures like the one mentioned above are also a time drain for schools and businesses. The process of checking each entrant one by one means students or workers have to show up earlier or that precious time that should have been spent in the classroom or office is instead wasted standing in socially-distanced lines. With SafeScreen, a student can answer the necessary questions at home and quickly flash their “clear to enter” screens before boarding the bus or setting foot in school.

Get the Answers You Need

SafeScreen offers school systems and organizations the flexibility to consider their own unique data collection needs. The Health Screener is programmed to ask a set of CDC and NIH-based questions which can’t be changed, but administrators can add any questions to it they want. If you have an important message to add about a COVID-19 development or new social distancing requirement, you can share it through the app and require users to click to acknowledge they’ve read it.

For More Information

To learn more about how SafeScreen can keep your school or organization COVID-free, visit our SafeScreen web page or read through our thorough FAQs page. Contact STOPit with additional questions or to arrange a demonstration by calling 855-999-0932 or emailing sales@stopitsolutions.com.

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. 

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