FRANKLIN, IN, June 11, 2019 (Daily Journal) – Students at Franklin schools used the STOPit app more than 100 times to report conflict and suspicious activity in the final two months of the school year.
Two reports came from the district’s five elementary schools. The other 102 came from Custer Baker Intermediate School and Franklin Community High School, which had 36 reports each, and Franklin Community Middle School, which had 30 reports, Operations Director Jeff Sewell said in an email.
The app is the first of its kind at Franklin schools, which hope to encourage students to report misconduct using the shield of anonymity. Details about the types of activity reported, such as suspected drug use or bullying, were not available.
“I think we’re getting more reports overall. We’re getting some reports we wouldn’t have otherwise gotten because people have the option to submit anonymously,” Sewell said. “In some cases, students leave their name and are willing to talk.”
Using the app, students can share text, photos or videos and communicate with school administrators without having their identities released.
Other Johnson County school districts have their own reporting systems. Center Grove schools uses a service called Safe Schools Alert. Using the system, students can report their concerns anonymously through text, email, phone or online, according to the district’s website. Edinburgh Schools has what they call a Bully Buster Box, where students can submit bullying incidents, Superintendent Doug Arnold said.
Clark-Pleasant schools has a link on its website where people can report anonymous tips. It also has a space where users can attach files, such as images, to accompany their reports. Indian Creek schools also has a link on its website, called a bullying report form, but requires the name of the person reporting the incident.
Most of the reports on the STOPit app have been about intrapersonal conflict that has not reached the stage of bullying, Sewell said.
“We don’t very frequently have alleged bullying so much as ‘so and so was mean to me,’ or ‘someone said a bad thing about me’ or spread a rumor. Some of that kind of stuff is more a conflict between peers than systemic and regular repeated harassment,” Sewell said.
“We try to adhere to the state guidelines for what constitutes bullying. Mean behaviors happen all the time, it doesn’t mean someone is being bullied, but if the same behavior is done over and over, it’s just one of the ways that becomes bullying.”
When there is conflict between students, staff will sit down with students and try to resolve the issue after hearing what both students have to say, he said.
In cases of sexual harassment or assault, more serious action is immediately required. In those cases, Franklin schools will report the incident to the Department of Child Services, which would give information to law enforcement. The school would also contact the victim’s parents and ensure the victim is protected and away from the student who committed the actions, Sewell said.
Some reports involve vaping either tobacco or marijuana, which can lead to school discipline and legal action. The main purpose of the system, however, is to make sure students are helped to correct their behavior rather than punished, Sewell said.
“How do we help you get into positive relationship practices and conflict resolution to set yourself up to be successful? In a lot of these cases other sources of stress in their lives or in their home lives are causing harmful behavior, we have to be aware of all those factors,” Sewell said.
“We always hold kids out of line accountable, but not to be penalized so much as to prevent them from growing beyond that. There will be consequences, but let’s make them effective in helping students grow.”