By Jenna Schiferl
In an era where mass shootings have become more commonplace, school districts across South Carolina are beginning to implement cellphone apps that allow students to anonymously submit tips to report school threats, vandalism, bullying, drug usage, suicide attempts or any other potentially dangerous activity they observe.
The reasoning is simple. Advocates say that by providing students with the ability to anonymously report things with the devices at their fingertips, tragedies can be prevented and lives saved.
The challenge is creating a culture and environment where students feel comfortable enough to speak up.
Dozens of school districts in the Palmetto State have partnered with school safety-oriented tech companies to offer more options for students to report concerning behavior.
Many of these districts have partnered with STOPit Solutions. The New Jersey-based company has implemented its anonymous reporting services in 29 school districts in South Carolina, serving roughly 330 schools and about 184,000 students, according to company President Parkhill Mays.
Most of those districts have set up STOPit services within the past six months for free, thanks to a partnership with the S.C. School Boards Insurance Trust.
While many districts have offered some sort of hotline for students to report things for many years, “the big problem they bring about in education is they’re not anonymous,” Mays said, since many of them have some form of caller ID.
“There’s something about typing into a faceless, nameless keyboard that’s very comfortable for a student, compared to making an appointment and meeting with an adult or calling a phone number,” Mays said.
In South Carolina, STOPit has received tips on more than 2,000 actionable incidents over the past six months. Those numbers are going up rapidly, Mays said.
“It only takes one to make a life-saving difference,” he said.
Working from the inside out
In Charleston County, the STOPit app was implemented at Haut Gap Middle School after authorities confiscated a gun and more than a dozen rounds of ammunition that a 13-year-old student brought on campus.
A teacher was tipped off that the student had brought a firearm to school in a backpack after receiving a handwritten note from another student. The student who submitted the note alleged the other student “said he was going to shoot us,” according to an incident report.
Now, students can submit tips through STOPit three different ways: via the mobile application, a desktop website or a 24/7 hotline, said Director of Security and Emergency Management Michael Reidenbach.
“Schools are secured from the outside in, but we have to think about what we have to do to keep students safe from the inside out,” said Haut Gap parent Kelly Loyd.
Curious why over 5,000 organizations worldwide are using STOPit’s anonymous reporting software and 24/7/365 monitoring services?