MINGO JUNCTION — Indian Creek Local School officials have a new tool to keep schools safe with the STOPit App.
Assistant Superintendent John Belt said officials added the feature to district school buildings and students in grades fourth through 12th who want to report incidents of bullying and other harmful or inappropriate conduct may do so via text.
According to its website, STOPit is a technology platform for schools that allows students to report anything of concern to officials, from cyberbullying to threats of violence and self-harm.
Belt said Indian Creek and other districts were approached by officials with Schools of Ohio Risk Sharing Association, which acts as an insurance provider to school districts, and the app will not cost the local schools anything.
“SORSA reached out to Ohio school districts and let us know it was available,” Belt said. “SORSA paid the cost and schools could just sign up. I checked on it and it seemed worthwhile and it doesn’t cost anything to taxpayers.”
The app targets fourth- through 12th-graders since those students have access to cell phones and it requires a Smartphone mechanism to be activated. Each school building has a web portal and specialized code and students who witness bullying or related behavior can send an anonymous text message, photo or even video, and school administrators can follow up with an investigation. Administrators are able to manage incidents in a backend management system called DOCUMENTit, which provides investigative tools to staff, including the ability to message with the reporter, allowing officials to address issues instantly, it was noted.
Indian Creek already had a phone number for incident reporting through SafeSchools Ohio, but students have another way to report any potential problems, officials said.
“This generation is more comfortable texting than actually talking to somebody,” Belt commented.
Indian Creek Middle School implemented the program with a video presentation this month. Principal Holly Minch-Hick informed pupils of how the app is properly used, and pupils learned about cyberbullying and other pitfalls of social media.
“It’s a whole system that allows users to report other kids, but it also finds patterns with a common offender,” she said. “They download the app on their phones. We can also send information to teachers so they are aware of something allegedly happening in the classroom, and it lets us document the outcome after the investigation. This is probably the direction we need to take because of so much in the media and kids are sometimes afraid to come forward. It’s a way they can report it without getting involved.”
Meanwhile, Belt said the app should be implemented throughout the district by Christmas.