The stigma of being labeled a “snitch” or “tattletale” long has impeded the willingness of both adults and children to come forward in potentially violent times.
Just on Wednesday, Brookfield Local School District in Trumbull County introduced its students to the STOPit app, an anonymous reporting tools that allows students to not only alert officials to bullying but also any other concerns related to school safety and inappropriate behavior.
Law enforcement and school officials want to know about it, so threats can be accessed but don’t wish the threat to be shared publicly and cause possibly undue panic. In fact, many individuals who alleged they were trying to warn others ended up charged with misdemeanor criminal charges over the past weeks.
According to Jeff Schobel, a senior account executive for STOPit Solutions, said that the company’s web and mobile apps allow students and staff to take a screen image of a Facebook post and send it to an institution’s administrator, while maintaining their anonymity, which can be an obstacle with other reporting solutions.
An instant management system — much like a chat option — allows administrators to contact the tipster throughout instant messaging to ask more detailed questions, while maintaining that anonymity for more real-time investigation of the report.
For example, when Sebring school officials learned of alleged school shooting threat, it wasn’t until 11 a.m. the next day that they could find someone to confirm its origins firsthand. This app takes the extensive time delay caused by having to backtrack a tip out of the equation.
Today’s children often share cell phones.
“STOPit doesn’t keep any history, including IP addresses, so it is 100 percent anonymous. Kids often fear retribution for being a tattle tale, and we tend to get better results with our apps, because they know it cannot be tied back to their device,” Schobel added.
The app’s introduction at school districts generally result in immediate results, including tips on everything from bullying to student sexual assault by staff. Repeated reports of the same activity often results in students often corroborating each other’s tips inadvertently, especially when reporting on behalf of observing incidents occurring to others — like bullying.
There is also a Get Help option embedded in the app under resources, which allow for students to either call or text a crisis hotline and talk to a mental health professional anytime; report others who are battling drug dependency or thoughts of suicide.
“Kids often feel comfortable texting more than calling, because their parents cannot overhear them on phone,” he continued. “This allows school districts to be proactive rather than reactive and empower students.”
STOPit now has more than 1,600 schools live on the platform, including 29 school districts in Ohio since being made available 60 days ago. Brookfield school officials reported to a local broadcast media outlet that the app provides a key opportunity to battle underreported incidents of bullying, which trigger the surge of school threats and violence.
Knowledge of the app’s implementation at a school district often is enough to curb a smart bully’s aggressive tendencies. “STOPit is a powerful deterrent – you’ll see the difference as people start thinking twice before making a bad decision,” Schobel concluded.
Generally after a 20-minute webinar with a school district’s administrative team to see the cloud-based app in action, setup usually only takes 15 minutes, after the STOPit-provided launch kit is provided with a district access code. Students and staff download the mobile app from either Google Play or the Apple store for instant access.
More information on STOPit can be found at www.stopitsolutions.com.