BEDMINSTER, NJ — It was on a drive home when Somerset County local and STOPit Founder Todd Schobel got the idea to launch his anti-bullying app.
“I heard the tragic story of Amanda Todd on the radio. She was a 15-year-old girl who was bullied online and took her own life,” Schobel told Patch.
“I wanted to create something to strip away the fears of reporting bullying incidents and a way for students not to be considered a snitch when doing so,” Schobel said.
The STOPit app was launched four years ago and has grown to be used by more than 3 million students in five different countries.
However, the app was actually launched locally first. Kenilworth Public Schools was the first school to adopt the platform.
When New Jersey launched the implementation of Harrassment, Bullying and Intimidation (HIB) protocols five years ago, Brian Luciani, a former principal in the district, noted that the school’s “first year had a very high rate of investigations.”
Luciani served as the principal of David Bearly School, which has both middle and high school students together, for eight years. He now serves as the Director of Academics.
After the app was launched toward the tail end of the school year, Luciani reported seeing a decline in bullying incidents.
“The following year, we instituted the app early on with the kids and could see a drop in the number of reported incidents. We were seeing nice improvements.” Luciani said.
Over the past four years, the school has reported a “nice downward trend” in bullying incidents.
Luciani attributes that to a number of things, including that students are aware of the app and are more conscientious before sending out an inappropriate message or photo because it may be reported anonymously. He also credits his staff and parents who work together to deal with any issues.
The app has helped staff handle situations such when two girls are fighting over wearing the same prom dress or something more serious.
“Students can be anonymous and someone may say they want to hurt themselves,” Luciani said. “With the app, we can connect with them right away. Just texting back and forth.”
The app can also be used to report a suspected weapon in school or even sexual predators, such as in Tennessee.
Schobel noted how a student at Creek Wood High School reported the girls basketball coach Tom Mullinicks of Dickson who was engaging in sexual conduct with students. Dickson was later arrested on four counts of rape.
“The app gives people the ability to make a difference,” Schobel said.
It has also been implemented locally in the North Plainfield School District as well and now many school districts in Somerset and Union Counties can get STOPIt at no cost. Schobel said they have partnered with many insurance entities that fund the program for the school’s insureds.