Oak Ridge High School has become a little safer since a new app called STOPit was implemented by Principal Aaron Palm last January. The app allows students to report threats made against the school as well as inappropriate or dangerous behaviors observed or experienced.
The main goal of STOPit is to give students a voice in keeping their school campuses safe, while allowing their identities to be kept under wraps. STOPit’s Chief Revenue Officer Neil Hooper attributes the success of the app with teens to the simple fact that it gives them confidence to step forward and report incidences anonymously, something they may not have done in the past.
The majority of reports at Oak Ridge are initiated by students who have witnessed classmates being bullied or are concerned about friends that may be planning to harm themselves. A handful of the reports from the app are made from students who have come across threats to the school or to individuals that were posted on social media.
The type of report made determines whether the school will contact a parent or the local authorities. Threats against the school or individuals are considered high priority.
“Once the Sheriff’s department is alerted, they take it seriously and immediately go to the person’s home,” Palm explained.
Currently Oak Ridge averages about three reports a week and the principal said he is more likely to hear of incidences now, especially when it comes to students reporting on bullying of their peers, than he would have prior to roll-out of the app.
“I am glad that students have a way to communicate and help to maintain a safe environment,” Palm added.
Started in 2015 by Todd Schobel, who was moved to action after hearing a tragic story about a young girl who was cyber-bullied to the point of taking her own life. Creating a YouTube video in what afterward was realized as a cry for help, Amanda Todd described her plight through the use of flashcards. Schobel decided to create a technology platform that could be used in a positive way to empower students seeking help like Amanda and STOPit was born. Based in New Jersey, the center is monitored 24 hours a day and sends reports to the schools as they are received from calls, texts or emails.
Initially starting out as a cyber-bullying app, STOPit is now used as a way for students to report anything from their own struggles with thoughts of suicide or self harm, to witnessing the victimization of others. Since 2015 STOPit has helped 3,200 schools around the country, generating 42,000 reports last year, according to the company. Six-hundred California schools are currently using the app, with five local schools participating.
Statistically, according to Hooper, 5 percent of the reports that come in are related to children with suicidal thoughts or committing self harm. Once a concerning report is received, the app contact is notified, giving the schools an early warning to prevent potentially tragic outcomes.