MYERSTOWN >> The Elco School District is the first district in Pennsylvania to adopt a new anti-bullying application for iPads.
The safety application will be downloaded into all 1,200 iPads currently used by students in grades six through 12 and will be in use by the end of September.
The “STOP!T” (Stop it) app will empower students to report bullying anonymously to school administrators and is expected to play a major role in keeping students safe.
The application is also connected to a crisis support center that can be called or texted 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If a student finds himself in a crisis situation, the iPad app can get help.
“STOP!T allows us to have 1,200 pairs of eyes looking out for our students, not just the eyes of teachers or administrators,” Elco Superintendent David Zuilkoski said.
The cost of the app is less than $2 per student over a three-year period, said board President Brandon Bernard.
Students will be able to contact an administrator immediately for problems that arise.
Elco administrators learned about the app after attending a conference in Nashville earlier this year.
Maria Capone, a representative of the tech company that furnishes the apps, gave a presentation explaining the uses of the STOP!T app to board members Monday evening.
“If students have an issue on the bus or an issue with another student during the day, they can hit the button and report directly to administration,” Capone said. “It’s automatic, and it’s immediate.”
The administrator can message the student for more information, all the while keeping the identity of the student anonymous — the student can tell the administrator as much or as little as he wants to.
“It’s a great way for administrators to get back to students; we program it in a very positive way,” Capone said.
“When school is closed, the student can still have the opportunity to get help,” Capone said. “That will be implemented on all these devices, and it gives the students the ability to stand up for themselves and others.”
This is the first year that Elco has equipped all students in grades six through 12 with iPad technology.
“This will encourage our students to be ‘upstanders’ instead of bystanders and report incidents or concerns in real time,” Zuilkoski said. “This looks out for all our students.”
The app is expected to further communication between students and adults in the high school building, Zuilkoski said.
“It’s not just about bullying; it could be other issues,” Zuilkoski said. “When a student thinks a friend needs some help (he can alert administration).”
It is hoped that the app will encourage students to look out for other students.
If one teen knows of another who may be abused or may be contemplating self-harm, that concerned student will have someone to contact and can do so anonymously.
STOP!T information rallies are scheduled during the day Sept. 29 for high school students and on Sept. 30 for middle school students.
Parents will be able to attend an information rally in the evening on Sept. 29.
As soon as the rallies have been given, the application will be active.
During the rallies, the featured speaker will be Sgt. Tom Rich, a police officer and DARE officer from New Jersey who has been speaking on anti-bullying issues for the past 15 years.
Rich will not only address bullying issues but will explain when the STOP!T app should be used and how it can best be used, Capone said.
“He also gives parents insight into the hidden computer world that not every parent knows about,” Capone said.
In case a student uses the STOP!T app inappropriately, it can be shut down at the administrative end, Zuilkoski said.
One district resident attending the meeting voiced the concern that technology was taking over too much and being used too extensively in education.
But board members voiced their disagreement.
“It doesn’t take away their ability to go talk to a teacher or administrator; it’s another avenue,” said Bernard. “It’s possible they’re not comfortable going to their parents (with a problem), and I would rather they use it (the app) than not do anything.”
Board member Carrie Boyer said having the STOP!T app with students at times school is not in session could be a lifesaver.
“They can say ‘I need help, and I need help now,’ “Boyer said. “They can be connected to someone, and it will help them drastically.”