The same technology that keeps kids glued to their smart phones is being used by some schools as protection against sexual assaults. Using apps, victims and bystanders can alert school officials, police or parents to trouble. While the systems can be used by kids pranking each other, app developers and school officials say most claims end up being credible. Reporting happens as events unfold and administrators can respond immediately.
The real challenge is money. Not all schools can afford the apps, some of which base their cost on the number of users or size of a student population. However, school insurance companies increasingly are picking up the tab, seeing the apps as a tool to mitigate risk.
Experts also warn that these apps should never be considered the sole way for a school to address the issue of student sexual assault.
STOPit : New Jersey-based creator Todd Schobel launched this app in 2013. His inspiration was Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old who committed suicide after posting a video on YouTube in which she held up flashcards describing how her topless image ended up on the Internet, triggering a relentless barrage of bullying. The app — championed by Amanda’s mom — allows victims and bystanders to report anonymously to administrators, teachers and virtually anyone the school deems appropriate. There are no parental controls. Users can send either a single text or have a two-way chat, and can attach pictures, screenshots and video. The person who receives the alert can forward the information to law enforcement or suicide response teams, depending on the risk. The app stores all evidence and notes regarding incidents in a secure cloud-based server so school administrators can collect and analyze it over time.
Number of users: More than 2.5 million in K-12, according to the company.
What it costs: Schools pay $1 to $5 per head for the app, depending on the size of the student body. Some school insurers also have begun paying for the software for their clients’ use because they see it as a way to mitigate risk.
Available for download: Apple’s App Store or Google Play.
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