Texas Teachers Answer Virginia Teen’s Cry for Help, Save Her Life

If there’s one thing school teachers anticipate each day, it’s to expect the unexpected.

Kim Frankson, Jess Johnson and Laurie Ortel work at Ashley Elementary in Frisco.

They’ve perfected the art of multi-tasking but a single text message in December brought it all to a stop.

The message came from an app called “Stop It”, which allows students to report bullying anonymously.

“She was telling me about a situation that was happening with her and some other girls at the school and how it was making her feel,” Johnson, the assistant principal explained.

The student said she was considering killing herself.

“There was no doubt this was a serious situation,” said Ortel, a school counselor.

With the clock ticking, they didn’t have much to go on. They didn’t recognize the student’s name and after a search of a district database, they learned she wasn’t a student in Frisco either.

They asked the student what school she goes to. When she responded, they asked, “Is that in Texas?”

Far from it, they found out.

She was a teenager in Waynesboro, Virginia, a 17-hour drive away.

“I don’t really know if you can describe that feeling. It is something that’s very surreal. The urgency to help this child that you don’t know, that you know she needs help now,” said Frankson, the school principal.

Forty-five minutes into the conversation, the student revealed she had taken pills and was becoming slow to respond.

“At that point, I was really nervous,” Johnson said.

By then, Waynesboro police were on their way.

“I’m just thankful that she opened the door,” said Officer Alison Willis.

Officer Willis said the teen was alert, distressed and home alone.

The teen was taken to a local hospital and is okay.

“I feel like I did my job. That’s what I’m here to do,” said Officer Willis.

“I think we all just looked at each other and it was like we could take a deep breath that we had helped this girl,” Johnson said.

“Every single thing, every single action, every single word that kids say to each other, it’s so important to be kind,” said Ortel.

The entire incident lasted less than an hour.

It’s not clear why the app message went to Frisco and not the girl’s school.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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School Districts Turn to Apps to Help Report Bullying

DICKSON, Tenn. (WKRN) – Reporting bullying incidents in-person to school faculty and staff can be an uncomfortable experience for students.

But new technology is helping to make it easier and may be helping to curb an age-old problem — bullying, both seen and unseen.

“A kid had taken his mashed potatoes off his tray and smacked the kid in the face,” Day’Jah Williams, a Dickson County High School Senior.

“Talking about people’s intelligence, the way people look,” said Tucker Berry, also a senior at Dickson County H.S. 

“It’s always a continuous struggle,” said Steve Sorrells, Director of Student Services for Dickson County Schools.

District staff said part of the problem is barriers to reporting.

“A lot of times, students are reluctant to report that they are being bullied,” said Melissa Fortner, Assistant Principal at Dickson County H.S. “They don’t want the people to know that they’ve reported or they don’t want to be seen in the office being a tattletale.”

The district’s answer – new technology.

Two years ago, Creek Wood High School implemented the ‘Stop It’ app, which serves as another avenue for students to report bullying – anonymously.

“It allows them to spell out the incident they’re having,” said Fortner. “They can also download pictures if they need.”

“The results of that at the end of the year were so successful for us that we wanted to try to expand that include Dickson County High School as well,” said Sorrells.

“It’s easy, it’s accessible,” said Williams.

Williams and Tucker said the app reaches out to students who may not feel as comfortable addressing faculty, staff, and the school resource officer.

“Most of the time, it’s more of a setback person or a person who doesn’t like speaking out,” said Williams.

“It’s just comforting to know that you can report anonymously through that,” said Berry.

According to the district’s data, bullying reports went down in the first year of using the app.

There were 47 reported cases (2016-17) compared to 137 (2015-16) the year before.

“I feel like having this resource prevents it before it starts,” said Fortner. “Students know they’re on top of those things. ‘If I do this, it’s going to be reported and dealt with.’ Not as apt to do those things as in the past.”

But, the following year in 2017-18, the district’s data shows reports of bullying did go up to 52.

Dickson County school officials tell News 2 fighting bullying goes beyond technology – It takes a comprehensive approach starting with relationships. 

“Our emphasis has not really been on trying to find one answer for a problem, but more so district-wide. Supporting students by building proper relationships,” said Sorrells.

Sorrells said that’s expected district-wide of teachers, school resource officers, and now, with an added tool of technology.

“Just the ability to be in front of things before they happen,” said Sorrells. “We’re getting these reports that people are concerned. Before it blows up into a huge disruption or distraction, administrators are able to get into it and solve problems before they come back.”

Sorrells said ‘Stop It’ has also helped with addressing potential suicides, abuse, and so much more.

Click here to learn more. 

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‘She Became Ours’: How Three Frisco Teachers Answered a Virginia Teen’s Cry for Help

FRISCO — The teenager’s first message arrived late-morning the Thursday before winter break.

At Frisco ISD’s Ashley Elementary School, assistant principal Jess Johnson and counselor Laurie Ortel were in principal Kim Frankson’s office for a weekly meeting when Frankson’s phone lit up with a new notification.

Since the beginning of the school year when the district launched STOPit, an app that allows students and parents to send anonymous reports of bullying or school threats, administrators at Ashley Elementary had not received any notifications.

Now, Frankson was reading a lengthy report aloud as Johnson followed along on her own phone.

It was from a student who had been bullied. She gave her name. The teenager threatened to kill herself, and even gave a date for when she planned to do it.

Right away, the trio knew something wasn’t right. They know every child at Ashley Elementary, and this was not one of their students, nor were any of the bullies named in the message.

Frankson went to her computer to look up the students enrolled at other Frisco campuses. No results.

“Hi, we’re very concerned about you and want to help,” Johnson typed in the app. “Can you tell me your name and what school do you go to?”

The teenager responded immediately. Frankson searched the name of the school on Google and found a result in Waynesboro, Va., about a half-hour west of Charlottesville.

“Is that in Texas?” Johnson asked. No.

“Okay, are you at school today?” No.

Almost 1,200 miles away, a student was in need. Frankson, Johnson and Ortel pushed everything else aside to help her.

“We didn’t know her,” Ortel said this week, “but in that moment, she became ours.”

■ ■ ■

When students or parents first log on to STOPit, they must enter an access code unique to their school. Every week, Frankson sends the code for Ashley Elementary to parents in a weekly email newsletter.

Makers of the app and Frisco ISD officials are unsure how the student in Virginia managed to message the Ashley Elementary administrators. Maybe she mistyped her own school’s code. Maybe she has some unknown connection to Frisco and was able to learn the school’s code. Frisco ISD officials declined to release the girl’s name due to privacy concerns.

Either way, the administrators say it was fortuitous that they happened to be near their phones when this unexpected message arrived.

“I don’t know who she would’ve reached out to,” Frankson said.

After alerting district officials, they moved down the hall to Johnson’s office, closed the door and told office staff they were not to be interrupted. They called the Frisco ISD district office, where more administrators stood by on a speakerphone to offer guidance as Johnson continued to message the student.

Johnson told her she was an administrator in Texas, that she wanted to find a way to help. She asked for more details about the teenager, like what grade she was in.

She found out the student was already on winter break, that no one from her school would have received the app’s message if it had gone to the right school.

Meanwhile, Frankson and Ortel began calling and emailing everyone they could find associated with the school in Virginia. The district’s superintendent, assistant superintendent, principals, teachers, even athletics coaches. No one responded.

Then, messaging by the student suddenly stopped. Johnson kept sending questions but was getting no response.

“Are you still there?” Johnson asked.

Yes, the teen finally responded. Unfortunately.

Frankson decided to call police dispatch in Waynesboro, who passed her information to Officer Alison Willis. The Frisco administrators shared what little information they had with the officer, including the student’s name.

At 12:12 p.m., the teenager stopped messaging again. Johnson continued asking questions, trying to get the student to respond.

“Thank you for finding a way to reach out.” Nothing.

“I’m here to listen and I want to help you!” Nothing.

“We can work it out. Things will get better.” Nothing.

At 12:21, another update. Johnson opened the app.

“She just told me she took pills,” Johnson said aloud.

Frankson called Willis again. The teenager was in danger. The officer needed to find her immediately.

■ ■ ■

Ten long minutes crawled by like hours.

The student wasn’t responding on the app, and there was no word from Willis or anyone in Waynesboro.

Just after 12:30 p.m., some 45 minutes after the first message arrived, Frankson’s phone rang with an out-of-town area code.

“I’ve got her,” Willis said on the other end of the phone. “She’s safe.”

The officer had reached the student at home and was taking her to the hospital. Willis said the teen wouldn’t be responding to messages on the app but that she was OK.

The trio wiped away tears as they closed their laptops and put away their phones.

“Oh, it still gives me chills,” Frankson said this week.

“I just got home and it felt like I’d run a marathon,” Johnson said.

“It was like the biggest weight was lifted off of us,” Ortel said. “We were moving so fast before that, when we found out she was OK it was such a relief.”

They didn’t tell the other teachers or front office staff about the incident, instead quietly discussing it among themselves in the weeks since.

Corey McClendon, the district’s chief student services officer, praised Ashley Elementary administrators at a recent district board meeting, but the other teachers didn’t know about what happened in Johnson’s office that Thursday in December until this week.

“Implementing a program like that potentially saved a young lady’s life that day,” McClendon said at the board meeting. “She contacted the right people.”

Still, hardly a day goes by when Frankson, Johnson and Ortel don’t think about the teenager in Virginia. They’ve heard from officials there that she’s still getting the help she needs, and are relieved.

“We want her to know we still care about her,” Frankson said. “I think about her every single day.”

Although administrators across Frisco ISD receive as many as five STOPit messages every day, Frankson, Johnson and Ortel have only received one — from the teenager who needed help a thousand miles away.

Resources

Here is a partial list of hotlines and websites that offer counseling and resources to help prevent suicide:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. Confidential online chat is also available at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

NorthStar/North Texas Behavioral Health Authority: 1201 Richardson Drive, Suite 270, Richardson, Texas 75080. The 24-hour crisis hotline is 1-866-260-8000, or go to www.ntbha.org.

The Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas: Call the 24-hour hotline at 214-828-1000 to speak to a trained counselor, or go to www.sccenter.org.

Dallas Metrocare Services: 1-877-283-2121

Grace and Brian Loncar Foundation: The Loncar family recently set up this foundation to help teenagers and families minimize loss and suffering from youth mental illness and suicide. www.graceloncarfoundation.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Funds research and education programs and provides resources for survivors of suicide loss and people at risk. www.afsp.org.

National Alliance on Mental Illness: National grass-roots mental health organization for people and families affected by mental illness. Resources and information at www.nami.org.

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New Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Solution for Schools

HOLMDEL, N.J.Feb. 13, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — STOPit Solutions, the leader in Anonymous Reporting and Incident Management for education across the country, has announced the availability of its new SEL Resource Center in a one-of-a kind joint offering.

STOPit is continuing to see unrivaled adoption of its core reporting and management platform; “In the past school year, over 3,000 STOPit schools have managed 42,000 incident reports and counting. What we continue to see are young people reaching out with mental health issues, and we are happy to be able to provide our STOPit schools and their students assistance in this area with our Social and Emotional Learning Center,” stated Neil Hooper, COO of STOPit.

Early adopter Wally Leipart, Superintendent of the School District of Gilman Wisconsin, spoke highly of the integrated approach; “The range of concerning issues kids face today is astronomical. No person can know all of it. The SEL content library gives both staff and students access to accurate and timely information right through the STOPit app—and makes the STOPit platform truly different from standard tip apps. The SEL content library has increased our confidence that we can properly respond to our STOPit users.”

Hooper added; “At the end of the day it’s about helping schools help their students. With mental health concerns at an all-time high, we felt compelled to add specially-curated content for administrators working through these issues with their students.”

STOPit has partnered with Evolution Labs and in2Vate, two nationally recognized providers of educational content, and integrated their recommended resources directly in the STOPit platform for participating districts. This integrated approach of anonymous reporting, incident management, 2-way Messaging, and now SEL content ensures that STOPit continues to help schools across the country.

About STOPit:

STOPit is the leading technology company providing a comprehensive software platform that mitigates, deters and controls harassment and bullying, including cyberbullying, all forms of harassment and other harmful or inappropriate conduct. The STOPit platform is available to schools, universities, businesses and governments both in the United Statesand around the world. STOPit includes a robust incident management system, empowering administrators and management to get in front of issues to mitigate risk and adhere to the ever evolving compliance landscape. The 24 hour Hotline and Incident Monitoring Service protects our customers around the clock. The STOPit mobile and web app is a simple, fast and powerful tool which empowers individuals to protect themselves and stand up for others.

Press Contact: Neil Hoopernhooper@stopitsolutions.com   

To learn more about STOPit, please visit  www.stopitsolutions.com.

Related Links

STOPit Solutions

STOPit Content

 

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These Apps Try to Make Reporting Sexual Harassment Less of a Nightmare. Do they work?

ELIMINATING THE FEAR OF REPORTING

When it comes to preventing harassment in the workplace, most of the individuals we spoke to agreed that most companies fail on two fronts–creating an environment where employees feel comfortable reporting any incidents of harassment or discrimination, and having an effective process to hold the perpetrators accountable. Many of the apps are especially focused on tackling the former. “I would say for sure, the largest obstacle we have is that people are afraid to report,” says Neil Hooper, the chief operating officer of STOPit. Many employees fear retaliation from the employer, and they’re afraid of losing their jobs, according to Jared Pope, HR law attorney and founder of WorkShield.

STOPit allows employees to submit anonymous reports that goes to company personnel that the company designates–typically someone from HR, compliance, or legal. The company personnel can then address the complaint via the messenger platform, where they can discuss the issues and ask for more information. Hooper believes that this two-way communication is the core to STOPit’s product. “It’s better to have human interaction and interpretation,” he says.

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Appoquinimink Schools Roll Out New Student Safety App

A new instant messaging app has been launched in a Delaware school district to help curb cyber-bullying, self-harm and violent incidents. And dozens of students and parents are already using the app, reporting more than 100 incidents warranting action.

The STOPit app allows students and parents to share concerns about potentially dangerous situations with a fast, anonymous message from their phone, tablet or desktop.  STOPit also offers two-way communications when necessary.

Appoquinimink is the first school district in Delaware to introduce the new reporting tool, which comes as part of an increased emphasis on campus security. The district cited national data showing that for the first six months of 2018, there was an average of one school shooting per week.

Since the app’s launch with school families in January, more than 400 students and parents have downloaded the app.

“I’ve gotten all positive feedback,” said Tom Poehlmann, Appoquinimink’s Director of Safety, Security and Operations.“We’ve gotten approximately 160 reports. A few are meaningless. But the vast majority have been valid reports. One was a report of a potential suicide. The school’s counselor was immediately notified, and it turns out the family had already taken steps to address the issue.”

Poehlmann rolled out the app to all three school divisions (lower, middle, upper) in his district. “Just this morning two elementary kids were having problems on a bus, a parent used the app to communicate the issue, and the counselor was on it right away,” he said.

Poehlmann said it was critical that reporting troubling and potentially threatening situations be made easier for students – previously multiple steps were involved – and that a successful rollout required the entire school community to be supportive.

 “We spent the entire fall communicating the benefits of the app to get buy-in from families, teachers and counselors. By the end of November, teachers and counselors started asking me when the app was going to be ready. This, I think, was really the key in having a successful launch and pick-up. Everyone bought into the concept before it even came online.”Poehlmann emphasized that the anonymity of the student reporting any situation is always ensured, unless they choose to voluntarily divulge their identity.

Appoquinimink High School Principal Keisha Brinkley says her school district has had anti-bullying measures in place for more than five years. But the process wasn’t anonymous. And she says schools can never have too many ways for kids to communicate information to administrators. “I think this was definitely a good investment. This platform is just so teenager-friendly.”

And Brinkley says the app has already been extremely helpful. “We did get one report of a student with the potential for self-harm. Some of the kids saw pictures of her on her social media, and we were able to identify the student and get the proper help in place.”

“We believe the real-time feedback will be a game-changer,” said Poehlmann. “If a student says, ‘Mike is getting bullied,’ we can ask where and who is doing it.”

Nick Zema, a representative with the STOPit app, says 70% of all smartphone use involves social media, and that’s where the lion’s share of the cyberbullying takes place. “So kids can see something there, take a screenshot, and send it off anonymously,” he said. More than 3,500 schools nationwide have adopted the STOPit app since its introduction 5 years ago.

Messages received over the app will be monitored continuously by a 3rd party service 24-hours/day, which communicates immediately to school and law enforcement officials, when necessary. If viewed as credible and requiring follow-up, reports will be investigated.  

District staff received training late last year and in January every Appoquinimink school set aside time to introduce the feature to students with a short video and discussion. Appoquinimink middle and high schools provide every student with a tablet, and the STOPit app was automatically loaded on their devices at the same time classroom discussions were held.

“We believe this will become a powerful deterrent and an important new tool in school security,” Poehlmann said. The cost of the app is around $1/student. The 24-hour monitoring feature is another 50 cents/student.

Appoquinimink also said it is taking other steps to ensure student safety including training and certification in emergency preparedness and crisis response through the DE Department of Safety and Homeland Security. 

The district also conducts regular schedule of emergency exercises and lockdown/intruder drills, approved safety plans, and training for staff and students in critical incident and lockdown procedures at every school. Additionally, Delaware State Police officers are stationed at each district high school.

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Help Fight Crime By Using Your Phone

The Office of the Montgomery County District Attorney has implemented a new way to fight crime in the County.

“Want to be a super hero?” asked a statement issued by the Office of the District Attorney.  “Be our partner in crime fighting by downloading the STOPit App to your phone.  Then, when you see something, say something by texting an anonymous tip to police and detectives.”

According to the statement, you can “download the free STOPit App from the App Store or Google Play and input access code ‘MONTCOPA’ and you’re all set.”

“All tips go to the 911 call center,” the statement continued.  “Anything that requires it are immediately dispatched like a regular 911 phone call.  All others are sent to a Montgomery County on-call detective who forwards them for follow up to the relevant police department or detective bureau unit commander.”

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STOPit App Keeps Oak Ridge Safe

Oak Ridge High School has become a little safer since a new app called STOPit was implemented by Principal Aaron Palm last January. The app allows students to report threats made against the school as well as inappropriate or dangerous behaviors observed or experienced.

The main goal of STOPit is to give students a voice in keeping their school campuses safe, while allowing their identities to be kept under wraps. STOPit’s Chief Revenue Officer Neil Hooper attributes the success of the app with teens to the simple fact that it gives them confidence to step forward and report incidences anonymously, something they may not have done in the past.

The majority of reports at Oak Ridge are initiated by students who have witnessed classmates being bullied or are concerned about friends that may be planning to harm themselves. A handful of the reports from the app are made from students who have come across threats to the school or to individuals that were posted on social media.

The type of report made determines whether the school will contact a parent or the local authorities. Threats against the school or individuals are considered high priority.

“Once the Sheriff’s department is alerted, they take it seriously and immediately go to the person’s home,” Palm explained.

Currently Oak Ridge averages about three reports a week and the principal said he is more likely to hear of incidences now, especially when it comes to students reporting on bullying of their peers, than he would have prior to roll-out of the app.

“I am glad that students have a way to communicate and help to maintain a safe environment,” Palm added.

Started in 2015 by Todd Schobel, who was moved to action after hearing a tragic story about a young girl who was cyber-bullied to the point of taking her own life. Creating a YouTube video in what afterward was realized as a cry for help, Amanda Todd described her plight through the use of flashcards. Schobel decided to create a technology platform that could be used in a positive way to empower students seeking help like Amanda and STOPit was born. Based in New Jersey, the center is monitored 24 hours a day and sends reports to the schools as they are received from calls, texts or emails.

Initially starting out as a cyber-bullying app, STOPit is now used as a way for students to report anything from their own struggles with thoughts of suicide or self harm, to witnessing the victimization of others. Since 2015 STOPit has helped 3,200 schools around the country, generating 42,000 reports last year, according to the company. Six-hundred California schools are currently using the app, with five local schools participating.

Statistically, according to Hooper, 5 percent of the reports that come in are related to children with suicidal thoughts or committing self harm. Once a concerning report is received, the app contact is notified, giving the schools an early warning to prevent potentially tragic outcomes.

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Spirit of the Buffalo: STOPit Implemented to Help Stop Bullying

McAlester Public Schools are now using the STOP!T app that allows students to anonymously report incidences to the office via text. Students are encouraged to report anything from bullying to threats of violence or self-harm.

Many times a parent will call informing me of situations that are going on at their child’s school. The first question I ask is, “Have you talked to the principal?” Why? I am not at the school to know what is going on and I know that there are always two sides to every situation. The number of times I have been told by parents that their child is being bullied and no one will do anything about it is astronomical. When I asked if they have talked to the principal, the answer is usually no. How can a principal be expected to take care of the bullying when they do not know anything about it? That is where an app like STOP!T will work to help. Students and parents will be able to report any incidences or problems that happen at their school anonymously.

We want to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to dealing with incidents of inappropriate behavior that lead to avoidable issues. When students are comfortable sharing information with us, we then get the information we need to maintain a positive school climate and are able to get students the help they need. We will have the ability to address issues early on before they spiral out of control.

Each school will send out directions to their parents with information about the app and the password for the school. Puterbaugh Middle School is the only site so far to fully implement the STOP!T program with its students. They have been using it for over a week now and have received 36 incident reports. Visiting with the principal, they have verified that many of the incident reports have been middle school students joking around and trying to be funny, but there have been a couple of valid incident reports. The principals were thankful to be able to handle the situations and are seeing some very positive results from the program.

STOP!T will be fully implemented across the district.

Students can now download the free app on iPhones and Androids and each school will have its own ID to allow reporting. Students will be given the information for them to use and the elementary schools will send the information home to the parents. We hope that the implementation of the STOP!T app will provide one additional level of security for our students and staff.

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STOPit App Allows Glynn County Students to Report Safety Concerns Anonymously

The Glynn County School System has enrolled with STOPit, a technology platform that helps schools deter and mitigate bullying, cyber abuse, threats of violence, self-harm and other inappropriate behaviors. With STOPit, students can submit anonymous reports containing text, photos, or video to school administrators, who then have the ability to message the reporters, conduct effective investigations and manage and mitigate risks in the school.

“Our students in Glynn County have continued to express concern about having the ability to anonymously report concerns regarding safety, to include bullying and threats of harm without their being ridicule from their peers. It is our hope that STOPit will meet that need for our students,” said Senetra Haywood, director of student services for Glynn County Schools.

The STOPit platform includes a mobile app and a robust back-end tracking and management system. STOPit’s mobile app provides users with fast, secure and anonymous reporting – all at the touch of a button. Administrators are equipped with STOPit Admin, a comprehensive, streamlined, cloud-based incident management system that also helps schools identify trends, send alerts, and take control of incidents before they spiral out of control.

While no student information is needed to use STOPit, the only way personally identifiable information will be accessible through the mobile app is if a student voluntarily includes it within the content of a report or message.

“We are hopeful that during this implementation, Glynn County students will utilize this tool for its intended purpose, and our school administrators will be able to more effectively address any safety concerns that may arise in their schools,” Haywood said.

Beyond incident reporting, STOPit aims to empower students to stand up for themselves and for one another, as well as keep students safe and cultivate a kind and respectful school climate, online and off.

“We believe our adoption of STOPit is an important step in our continued effort to provide a positive school climate and a safe learning environment for our students,” Haywood said.

The STOPit program launch is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 8 and will be piloted for students in grades 5-12. The mobile app can be downloaded through the Apple Store and on Google Play.

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