Whether its Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat or Twitter, almost every teen is a member of one or more social media platforms, and most kids beginning as early as elementary school have a wide range of resources at the devices and gadgets beneath their fingertips.
Page County students now have one more ― a new smartphone app that allows the anonymous reporting of bullying and harassment.
Through “STOPit” students and parents discretely report incidents ranging from cyberbullying to threats of violence or self-harm.
“STOPit empowers students to stand up for themselves and others while giving our schools the insight we need to keep students safe,” the local school system said in a news release last week.
Last month Page County Public Schools began rolling out the new program for students in third through 12th grades. With STOPit, they can submit anonymous reports containing text, photos and/or videos. For instance students can screenshot online interactions, snap a photo or video of an incident or simply report it via text.
School administrators then manage incidents on a case-by-case basis. Reports that are flagged as urgent through a management system also head to the school board office in Luray.
“It’s a helpful way of being let into the social dynamics of students,” said John Van Wyck, director of student services for the local school system.
In the instance of a reported incident school officials first determine if it was possibly a crime. To help determine if an incident is considered bullying, they follow a national model ― was there aggression? was there dominance? was there persistence?
School officials then determine if the incident needs to be investigated.
“It’s a due process,” said Van Wyck. “But it has to be an issue related to the school or the bus ― something that potentially causes a school disruption.”
The Page County School Board last fall began discussing the app before opting into the $3,500-a-year program and rolling it out last month. Students and parents at each school are given a specific code in order to access STOPit. Reports submitted after school or on the weekends are monitored by STOPit Solutions staff, who then contact local authorities in emergent situations.
“It’s another tool for our tool kit,” said Superintendent for Page County Public Schools Wendy Gonzalez. “So far, it’s just been really positive.”
“If somebody’s feeling bullied, if somebody’s feeling threatened ― that’s all that matters,” said Van Wyck. “If [STOPit] helps in just a couple incidents, it’s worth it.”