Putnam County Schools Launching Anonymous Bullying Tipline App

 

Classes begin Thursday for students in Putnam County, and from day one, school administrators are cracking down on bullying.

They’re doing it through an app that gives students a platform to report things anonymously.

Bullying in the classroom often transcends in this day and age to social media.

Phyllis Atkinson is a grandmother of students in the Putnam County school system and worries about other children being harassed by their peers.

“They grow up and feel like they don’t matter,” Atkinson said. “(they) go inward and not want to have any socialization at all, or do something maybe worse.”

Putnam County Schools are on a mission to empower and protect students with new technology that could stop bullying in its tracks.

The “Stop It” app is a tool for students to anonymously report issues in or out of school, whether it’s cyberbullying and harassment or threats of violence or self-harm.

“We want kids to feel comfortable here, so this is a way for them to let us know what’s going on,” Matt Shock, Winfield Middle School Principal, said.

School leaders say students may submit the anonymous tip in the privacy of their bedroom, in their car, or anywhere, to make a report about the things going on in their life.

Administrators built a profile for each county school with its own identifying code that students will receive on the first day of school. From that point on, they can anonymously send information, including pictures and videos, to designated staff members at each school.

“Those folks are able to get that information immediately, and there can be two-way communication between the person who submitted it and the administrator,” Danielle Gillispie, school administrator, said.

Staff members are then able to log information and manage incidents in a back-end system that can be referenced at a later time.

“We can investigate it, try to get to the bottom of it, and kids need to be able to communicate that,” Shock said.

The app will officially launch Thursday in Putnam County Schools, and while there will likely be a few kinks to work out, school officials think the app is a proactive approach to a nationwide issue.

“It’s another level of protection we can give our students and get conversations rolling on how to keep our schools safe,” Gillispie said.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea. Anybody that sees anything going on, they don’t have to be afraid. You’re helping that friend to not go through what you went through,” Atkinson said.

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Bristow Public Schools Adds New Security Systems

Bristow, O.K., Aug 9, 2019 (News On 6) – Students in Bristow head back to school on Monday, and should be safer than ever. District leaders said they spent the last two months installing new security systems in every building.

“We feel safe here in our community, but we want to make sure we don’t have one or two unfortunate things,” Assistant Safety Director Lawrence Seachris said.

Seachris said their new visitor verification system is called School Safe I.D.

“Any visitors that we have check in to these vestibules, they’ll use a state-issued I.D.,” he said.

After you scan your I.D., the system automatically checks a national database for sex offenders. If and only when you’re cleared, the double doors to the school will unlock.

“It ensures that we know who’s coming in and out of our building to ensure all our students are safe,” Seachris said.

Seachris admitted the system takes a little more time than a sign-in sheet, but after the first time, he said you can add your visitor pass to your phone and skip the checkpoint next time.

“It takes a little more time the first time, but after that, it gets better,” he said. “And it’s worth the time because it ensures safety.”

Seachris said in a time where there is so much fear surrounding school safety, the extra few minutes are worth it to the district, and to parents, if it means stopping someone who isn’t welcome.

“If we can do anything we can to ensure that everybody’s safe, any extra measure is welcome,” he said.

As another safety measure, Seachris said the district asking parents and students to download an app called “Stop It” that allows them to anonymously report anything they see that’s suspicious.

Schools getting new security measures

Cookeville, T.N., Aug 10, 2019 (Herald Citizen) – School resource officers will be patrolling the halls of all Putnam County schools this year, and a more intensive screening of school visitors is in the works.

The school board this month approved a $27,642 contract for the Ident-A-Kid Visitor Management System, which will replace the practice of manually signing in visitors to the schools.

“We looked at three different vendors and Ident-A-Kid was the one that everyone preferred,” said Deputy Director of Schools Corby King, adding that he hopes to have the new system in place by Labor Day.

King said visitors will still have to show a photo ID at the school’s front door in order to gain access. From there, they will go to the office to complete the process.

“When you go in, the system scans your ID, checks it against the sex offender registry, and then takes a picture of you and prints it on the visitor label,” he said. “It uses the name from your driver’s license, but it takes a current picture.”

He said the system also allows more detailed information to be kept about visitors.

“You can import what they call a no-go list, so if parents have some type of order of protection against another parent or someone else — and this happens a lot —then you enter that information or update it in the system,” he said.

Funding for the new system comes from recurring money allocated by the state of Tennessee after the completion earlier this year of the first-ever statewide assessment of school facilities and safety procedures.

Putnam County also received a one-time allocation of $260,000 to address security issues identified in the individual school site surveys.

King said $109,000 of that allocation was used to update cameras and video surveillance systems, and $76,000 was put toward a program that provides digitized maps of school floor plans to emergency responders.

Another $60,000 was budgeted for the purchase of bollards — concrete barriers that are installed to prevent vehicles from driving into school buildings.

“A lot of schools have those scheduled to be installed over fall break,” King said. “We weren’t the only school system doing this, so some of the local companies were kind of overwhelmed, I think, with some of the requests.”

King said the barrier type may vary.

“The principals and SROs are working together to determine what they want,” he said. “Some are getting the sphere bollards, some are getting post bollards, and some are getting big concrete planters. They all serve a similar purpose.”

In addition, King said the school system has adopted a new tip line for students and parents to report suspicious activity.

“Last year, the tip line that we had was Safe Schools Alert, and we just really weren’t happy with that product,” King said. “It seemed a little bit clunky, so people just didn’t use it that much.”

This year, the schools are using a different vendor called Stopit Solutions.

“Several districts in Tennessee are using it. White County, Jackson County, Warren County and Rutherford County, have gone to Stopit,” he said.

He said the system uses a smartphone app or a website.

“You can click the app and submit a report that goes straight to the school administration, whether it be bullying, harassment or whatever,” he said. 

King said serious threats are also relayed to 911 and law enforcement.

“We always emphasize ‘if you see something, say something,’ ” he said.

Additional security improvements will be included in the application for this year’s round of state security grants, which is due by Sept. 20 and will be based on updated site surveys being conducted this month.

Glynn County school district wants to ban bullies with smartphone app

By Ashley Harding

Once the report comes in, Lewis said, intervention is available for the student being bullied, and the student who is the bully. 

“They need services to find out why they’re doing that,” Lewis said. “So, it’s not just reacting to the behaviors that are unacceptable. It’s looking at that particular child and saying, ‘Hey, why do you feel like you need to be a bully to someone else?'”

If someone ever hesitates to report bullying they’ve witnessed against another student, Lewis hopes all students will remember to do what is right.

“It’s never wrong to do the right thing,” Lewis said. “And the best scenario would be that, ‘How would you feel? What would you want somebody to do for you?’ If you want somebody to speak up for you, if you want someone to help you, you are that person for someone else.”

The “STOPit” app is available through Google Play or the Apple App store. The district wants students to know they can always report bullying the old-fashioned way, by going to a trusted adult. 

To learn more about the “STOPit” app, click here to see the instructional video provided by the Glynn County school system

Lubbock Area Districts Highlight Safety, Security Going Into New School Year

Security cameras, extra officers on duty and upgraded protocols are among the many steps towards a safer school year that administrators have been working on all summer and are now ready to put into practice as students return to school Wednesday at Lubbock ISD and Lubbock-Cooper ISD and Aug. 19 at Frenship ISD.

Lubbock ISD

The Lubbock Independent School District has been upgrading many of its security and safety protocols over the last few months, with a lot of work being put into their visitor system and ways to report information about a dangerous situation anonymously through their STOPit app. Their visitor management system, Lobby Guard, has been upgraded with new kiosks on the campuses, and visitors will need an official form of identification to be allowed into the building.

“We will be working with our parents who don’t have state-issued IDs to get them key tags so they’re able to check in to Lobby Guard as well,” said Stacy Carter, director of school safety and security for Lubbock ISD. “We also have STOPit now, so anyone across the community can report concerns through the web or app.”

There have also been upgrades to the facilities that will continue with construction through the year. All campuses will be able to alert the police department by the push of a button and get new public address systems, which will help send alerts through the campus and district if an incident is occurring. There are different options for the alerts, such as bus accident, and the alert will send updated rosters to teachers electronically to account for everyone in the building.

Another precaution being taken this year is being sure staff members and administrators have been trained for trauma-informed care and mental health first-aid, as well as having a threat assessment team on every campus and a district-level assessment team. The school district has also started piloting social and emotional lessons into the curriculum in 11 schools this year, including suicide and bullying prevention.

“If a student or staff member makes a threat to hurt themselves or others, we have an assessment we can do to determine the next steps that need to be taken to help that individual,” said Carter. “The classes are a lot of teaching kids how to handle social situations and their emotions, things like how to have a conversation and take turns.”

Along with the usual lockdown drills and keeping open communication with the community, Carter said their goal is to meet every need for students and faculty on campus and to act before a tragedy can occur.

“Our goal is to meet physical, social, emotional and psychological safety of both students and staff,” said Carter. “Our focus it to be proactive and preventative and that’s where the community is going to help us quite a bit. Our motto going into this year is ‘See something, say something, do something, stop it,’ because we can’t stand by and watch things anymore.”

Lubbock-Cooper ISD

Since the Lubbock-Cooper ISD board approved having a certified peace officer at a every campus a few years ago, the security measure has added ten full-time officers and three additional officers for extra events or as needed.

“We try to cover as much as we can, when we can,” said Rick Saldana, chief of police for LCISD. “Our door system has controlled access and our officers are checking them two to three times during their shift and perimeter checks.”

There are video systems throughout the district and on each campus that are able to scan inside and outside, and all doors will remain locked during school hours. Each main door leads into a security vestibule, not directly into hallways, and front office administrators will run visitors through a quick check in the Raptor monitoring system. The protocols are a way for anyone on campus to take responsibility for suspicious activity.

“All our employees take part in our security,” said Saldana. “The maintenance crew, teachers, administrators – we all work together, we try to stay vigilant and on top of things. Everyone does their part and at the end of the day, it’s about keeping kids safe and providing a safe environment where kids can come to school and feel safe learning and teachers can feel safe teaching.”

Officers in the district are taking a refresher course on mental health training as well after doing so two years ago. Saldana said the course enhances the officers ability to pick out something that seems unusual, and that all the employees have a good intuition about saying when something doesn’t seem right.

The important thing, said Saldana, was to always be ready to change security tactics depending on how society changes. By staying ahead, Saldana said they can be successful at making parents comfortable.

“As the bad guys change their tactics, we have to change ours too, so we’re constantly trying to stay not just one but two or three steps ahead and that’s where we plan to stay,” said Saldana. “We want our kids to come to school and feel comfortable. We don’t want them thinking, ‘Is this going to be the day?’ Yeah it stays in the back of your mind, but we’re here to educate kids, love them, and provide a good learning environment.”

Frenship ISD

A big key in tackling safety for Frenship ISD was working on any blind spots that security might miss. Over the summer, the camera system has been upgraded to a more extensive measure that allows officers and school administrators to access any camera on any campus from their desk or home if a situation needs to be monitored immediately.

“It’s a force multiplier,” said Roy Bassett, chief of police for Frenship ISD. “One officer can truly monitor numerous hallways of whatever school they’re assigned to from their desk. They can monitor that and look for problems themselves and hopefully cut off things before they get serious.”

Frenship adopted the standard response protocol which Bassett says can handle several situations such as a lockdown or a lockout, which will lock students in the school to avoid a problem outside. This protocol revealed that students at the high school who have classes in the outer buildings on campus would not be secure, so security changed that by adding a new fence outdoors.

“If kids were trying to change classes during a lockout, they would have to leave the security of the building in order to get to a new secure position,” Bassett said. “So now, all high school students are able to move from one building to another, they will be outside in a secure area.”

Officers for Frenship ISD are also about to attend a mental health peace officer certification course so they can all be certified by the time school starts. Bassett said safety is everyone’s job on campus.

“We’re out there to be a physical presence and reminder, but it starts at home and with the students,” said Bassett. “See something, say something is not just a clever saying, it’s truly the way we need to be in this day and age.”

Summer Camps And Using Tech To Enable The Best Experience

It’s Summer Camp Season.

It’s the time of year when kids get fired up for corkscrew water slides, flag football games, and field trips to the aquarium. All the excitement will undoubtedly bring a smile to their faces, but the elaborate bells and whistles are not only what determines whether kids have fun at summer camp or not.

It’s all about the friendships. When children establish a group of friends who make them happy, all of the activities are a blast. They can’t wait to step on the bus in the morning and hate to leave when camp is over.

No zipline in the world is going to excite a child if they are facing a problem with the other campers, though.

Parents hope that their kids will have fun, while also learning integral life skills—how to be more resilient, more kind, and more fulfilled young adults. The best camp experiences offer infinite opportunities for children to build character whether that be through working collaboratively in a team sport or resolving differences with respect and understanding.

The camps that succeed in providing these rich experiences are beloved by kids and parents alike.

Summer Is Even Better When Tech Helps Protect A Camp’s Core Identity

While we all hope for the perfect summer for every child, we know that issues of bullying, depression, and harassment can and do threaten to mar an otherwise great experience. Every camp should have a plan to address these problems and train their staff members to handle them quickly and thoroughly.

Technology can help accomplish those goals by protecting the camp’s identity and strengthening the dialogue between patrons and staff members. Since kids (and let’s face it, adults, too) are inseparable from their mobile devices, apps are a great way to send messages and share information about issues that arise during camp.

If a kid is picking on or using inappropriate language toward another camper, respond by halting the behavior immediately and provide everyone with information about the realities of bullying. Show campers how they can be an upstander in situations like these. STOPit Solutions offers partners a robust social emotional learning library (SEL) with carefully curated, evidence-based content on a spectrum of issues that affect the health and wellbeing of children and young adults from healthy body-image, to bullying, anxiety, cyber-stalking, and depression.

Two-way messaging is also a great way for camp counselors, kids, and administrators to stay in touch during the incident. There are several good apps that facilitate this kind of successful communication. STOPit Solutions is among the growing crop of easy, intuitive, and effective apps for fostering conversations between young people and grown-ups. Its broadcast feature makes it possible to send messages to every camper who has downloaded the app, which can be useful in times when an administrator would like to address an emerging problem or incident.

And what about those anonymous reporting apps we read about? Do camps need one?

Yes. Medium recently reported, as much as 60 percent of bullying in camps goes unreported. The need is real.

An anonymous reporting option is an effective way to deter problems before they take root. It gives kids a chance to help when they spot a friend in trouble, without the fear of retaliation or being labeled a “tattletale.” Anonymous reporting also gives camp administrators the ability to report incidents that counselors might miss.

When kids reach out through STOPit, administrators can respond with follow-up questions and let the dialogue flow, just like young people do with their friends in a thread of texts.

Leave with more than just fond memories

Besides fond memories of bonfires and canoe rides, thirty years from now camp directors want their kids-turned-parents, aunts, and uncles to be able to remember more than the perfectly toasted marshmallows as why they loved their summer camp experiences. With any luck, the real-life lessons learned at camp in the midst of making those memories will be the reason parents send their own kids.

Call STOPit Solutions today to find out how anonymous reporting can help build those kinds of family traditions and make every child’s memory of camp a happy one.

For more information about bullying prevention in summer camps, visit this resource page from the American Camp Association.

Is Your Phone Summer Ready? It’s Time to Start Summer Hours for Your Mobile Device!

For millions of American workers, Memorial Day weekend not only ushered in the unofficial start of summer, but the official start of summer hours. According to the Washington Post, around 40 percent of American companies now offer some version of the summer Friday perk to keep power charges low and recharge workers’ mental batteries.

So how about setting summer hours for our mobile device use? If you’re like most Americans, you can use it.

A mounting body of research shows cell phone addiction is a pervasive problem that’s deteriorating our health in numerous ways – anxiety, depression, loss of sleep, even wrist and hand pains. We know we’re on them too much, yet we do it anyway.

Dr. Jenna Meyerberg, PhD, LPC, an authority on youth social and emotional development, has written extensively about how living in an age of instant communication and nearly unlimited access to information is having a significant, negative impact on people. STOPit Solutions recently had an opportunity to sit with Dr. Meyerberg and talk about electronics addiction on the STOPit Solutions Podcast. In addition to providing helpful suggestions for encouraging everyone to unplug and being more present in real life (aka “IRL”), she shares  evidence-based research proving that people who are more disciplined in their online habits have higher self-esteem and confidence than their tech-obsessed peers.

These statistics and trends may feel oppressive, but the fact is that we DO have control over our own behavior and there’s no better time for a break than now. The beaches are open, the sun is out until 8:30 at night, and the warm breeze smells like flowers, the neighbor’s barbecue and freshly cut grass. Go out and enjoy it! Read on for a few simple ways we can institute summer hours for our phones and tablets.

 

Make a Plan and Apply It

A good way to start is to diagnose the ailment and set your cure. Both Apple and Google now have apps (Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing, respectively) that can tell you how much time you’re spending on your devices, with breakdowns by specific apps and categories.

Those who haven’t checked their stats before may be in for a shock. Studies have suggested that Americans check their phones once every 12 minutes – or roughly 80 times per day – and spend about four hours on them daily. Thankfully, Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing can be programmed to enforce time limits for your apps and lock them if you’ve crossed the line.

Take a look at your averages, come up with realistic goals for curbing your time and use these apps to hold you to them. Can you cut your app use by an hour per day? Two? Take the challenge!

No-Go Times

The dinner table used to be a family’s impenetrable bubble from the world. Kids told mom and dad what they learned in school and there were no interruptions allowed from the TV or ringing phones. Now everyone at the table is glued to Twitter and video games while they chew.

We can all make a meaningful dent in our gadget use by declaring them off-limits at times when good manners dictate they should be off anyway. Set a rule that they’re not allowed in the same room as the dinner table. Apply the same standards to times that are meant to be about family and friends – summer vacation trips, graduation parties, the annual golf outing. You can never get those moments back.

And if you’re out for a meal with friends, encourage everyone to pile them in the center of the table with the sound off. First person to give in picks up the check!

Be a Cellular Role Model

If you want to make summer hours stick with your kids, do as you say and say as you do. Like just about anything with parenting, it’s easy to dictate a bunch of rules and quite another thing to enforce them. If you lecture your kids about a bad behavior and then model it in front of them, they won’t take the lesson seriously or follow it.

If you lay down a “no Kindle before summer camp” rule, don’t let them see you glued to Facebook over your morning coffee. Show them it can be done.

Think about ways you can make summer hours a family affair. If everyone in your house is a part of the challenge, you can hold each other accountable and set up fun prizes for those who reach their goals.

And who knows — once summer hours are over and schools are back in session, maybe some of these healthy, new habits will stick. To paraphrase an old saying, “An app less per day keeps the doctor away.”

Into Action

Download our tip sheet and hang it on the refrigerator and home and work — or pass it along to a friend who you can recruit to take the challenge with you.

For extra satisfaction, write down what you did during the hour (or two) you reclaimed each day. Did you get an extra hour of sleep? Take the time to cook your favorite meal? Walk the dog on a new trail or have that family movie night you keep talking about? Let’s work together to live healthier, happier lives — right now! 

A Look At The Year Ahead: 2019 Bullying Statistics & Trends

By Neil Hooper, COO of STOPit Solutions

The most recent year once again experienced not only some horrible acts of school shooting, but some emerging jarring and tragic statistics on concerning youth behavior.  Bullying and the effects of bullying continues to grow, and we need to remember not to sideline this arguably even more brutal topic while we also address student and school safety.

Finding ways to address bullying is part of our company’s DNA. STOPit Solutions was founded in 2013 on a seemingly normal day after a story on the radio aired and turned out to change our lives forever.  The radio story reminded us of the tragic story of Amanda Todd, a victim of aggressive cyberbullying.  She suffered aggressive online predation and the cruel and relentless taunting by her peers led to her taking her own life at just 15 years old. Amanda had shared her story via flashcards in a YouTube video that caught the world’s attention. We believed the key to helping youth like Amanda and others is to empower them with technology to ask for help.

While school safety remains in the forefront of our minds and tools like STOPit encourages reporting of known issues, the ongoing social and emotional impact of bullying of people like Amanda and its effects are an every day challenge that we are driven to help our school partners address.

In fact, according to numerous studies, including one recently from author Gary Ladd, a psychology researcher at Arizona State University in Tempe, not only does bullying at school affect students’ emotional and social lives, it also directly affects their schoolwork and engagement in the classroom.  

“Nationally, there have been high-profile suicides and school districts trying to implement bully prevention programs,” Ladd commented. “Teachers, parents, school administrators and anyone who knows a school-age kid should understand these effects.”

Ladd’s team found that children who are most chronically bullied are the most likely to have low school engagement, academic self-perception and academic achievement, particularly in math.

According to a study from UCLA, every day more than 280,000 students are physically attacked in schools and one out of ten students who drop out of school, mentions repeated bullying as a factor. Jaana Juvonen, a professor of psychology at UCLA and lead author of the study, states that bullying and low academic achievement are frequently linked. Juvonen is quoted saying, “Students who are repeatedly bullied receive poorer grades and participate less in class discussions. […] Students may get mislabeled as low achievers because they do not want to speak up in class for fear of getting bullied.” Juvenon also remarked that, “Once students get labeled as ‘dumb,’ they get picked on and perform even worse.”

Additionally, in a study from researchers at the University at Buffalo, teens that are victims of cyberbullying are likely to suffer from poor sleep which contributes depression.

The stats around the effects of bullying are staggering and continuous, which is why if we want to keep our kids in school and give them the best possible chance of succeeding, as well as have our students achieve higher academic ratings, reducing and eliminating bullying is a leading contributing factor. 

Beyond affecting grades, the social and emotional learning (SEL) and self-harm statistics generally linked to bullying are hard to ignore.  The most recent data from the CDC confirms a 70% – 77% increase in teen suicide rates over the past 10 years, and the increase is seen in virtually every state in the nation.

Additional data from the CDC confirm that for ages 10-14 and ages 15-24, suicide is the second leading cause of death in the nation (ahead of homicide or health related issues).

The issues span gender, race and socioeconomics, and virtually every statistic related to this topic have been rising year over year over the past 10 years.

Bullyingstatistics.org tells us that:

  • For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts.
  • Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it

Youth suicide is an incredibly difficult event for families, schools, and entire communities. The fact remains in study after study: Being the victim of bullying can deeply affect a young person and the entire community around them and it’s time to put local programs in place to help our schools with their specific issues. From locally implemented anonymous reporting to help youth speak up, through integrated SEL content to assist issues as they arise, we look forward to a day when our schools have the tools they need to help our children with these new threats to their wellbeing.

The STOPit Solutions premise is simple: Bullying isn’t done in private. Bullies want attention and their action are witnessed. It is seen and heard, and we need to empower bystanders to become upstanders. We all know the concerns surrounding the stigma of speaking up, so in order to get the conversation started we empower anonymous reporting—and it works. In STOPit schools that consistently use the platform to get ahead of issues before they spiral out of control, the school culture becomes a more inclusive and protective community.  Stopping bullying can begin with the help of fellow students, and using STOPit is an integral component of that strategy.

Want to find out more about how STOPit Solutions can help your organization?

Educators Play An Important Role In Reinforcing Critical Social & Emotional Learning

It was National Teacher Appreciation Week this month, and we have more to say “thank you” for these days than ever. The seven hours per day, five days per week that students spend with their teachers is an opportunity for school-aged children to learn more than reading, writing and arithmetic lessons.

More and more, superior teaching programs and ongoing professional development requirements continue to elevate the profession, and kids in the classroom benefit from more a more complex, connected curriculum that includes best practices in technology and Social Emotional Learning:

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, establish and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions. SEL is critical to developing competencies besides academic content knowledge that are necessary to succeed in college and in careers. Effective SEL programming begins in preschool and continues through high school. SEL programming is based on the understanding that the best learning emerges in the context of supportive relationships that make learning challenging, engaging, and meaningful. — The National Education Association, Backgrounder: The Importance of Social Emotional Learning For All Students Across All Grades

Parents are the alpha and omega when setting the example and teaching their kids important lessons about empathy, compassion, critical thinking, conflict resolution and decision-making. This week, we encourage parents to seize the opportunity to forge even stronger partnership with teachers who are increasingly equipped through education and special training to reinforce these critical Social Emotional Learning lessons.

Parent-Teacher Compact, 3.0

Technology has both complicated and bolstered our work, and our K-12 classrooms are no exception to this fact. Like all tools, technology has the power to enable wonderful progress, or inflict damage when used carelessly or without skill. In our schools and in our homes, it has created digital minefields where children can inflict emotional damage on one another on and off school grounds, around the clock.

It has also provided new avenues for parents and teachers to make each other more successful.

Not long ago, parents’ only option for contacting teachers off hours was to call them at home, a step that felt intrusive for a non-emergency. Now parents can use social media, email and texts for something as simple as a homework assignment question, to far more serious discussions about a child getting bullied online.

Parents should keep those lines of communication open so they’re better aware of what’s going on in the classroom and the SEL lessons being emphasized, according to Melissa Straub, founder of High Impact Youth Training Solutions.

“Educators have a really hard battle and their hearts are in the right place,” Straub said. “Most of them have the tools and the educational foundation to provide these wonderful gifts of SEL – teaching kids all about good things like empathy, conflict resolution and emotion management. It’s just a matter of getting the message out there and getting the parents to back them up.”

One of the most important ways parents can do that is by modeling behavior that reinforces what’s being taught in school. Straub noted that if you lecture a child about taking a break from their cell phones or not reacting emotionally to a social media post, the lessons won’t hold if they see you’re not following your own rules.

SEL Lessons Protect Our Kids and Reveal Their Strengths, IF They’re Equipped & Practiced

Straub is also the founder and lead investigator for Without A Trace Investigations, which specializes in social media-related investigations, including cybercrime, cyberbullying, sexting and other social networking issues. She stressed that one of the most important things parents can do to promote good digital citizenship and support SEL efforts is to talk long and hard with their children about the internet before giving them access to it.

Teens have to navigate a literal obstacle course of road cones, study written materials and drive under adult supervision for months before receiving a driver’s license, she noted. They need nothing of the sort to enter the digital world.

“Before handing over this wonderful gift of technology, a lot of parents don’t stop to think, ‘Are these children ready for this? Have I talked to them about safety concerns?’” Straub said. “Don’t fall to peer pressure. Make your own decision on when they’re ready.”

STOPit Solutions is the only anonymous reporting application to offer SEL resources for educators and student users. The STOPit SEL Center contains an easy-to-search database of articles, studies, video, audio and other content covering topics from cyberbullying to depression. Administrators can share links to SEL content with individual students, or use the platform’s broadcast feature to send information to a full student body at once.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) also offers a comprehensive collection of SEL tools and resources to inform and support parents, educators and other stakeholders. Much of this information is free and available to the public online.

Curious  how our  anonymous reporting system and SEL Center can help teachers and parents collaborate successfully in your school? 

And, be sure to #thankateacher!

Summer Break Soon For Schools, But Legislators Across the Country Continue To Advance Anti-Bullying Laws Nationwide

We’re just over a quarter of the way through the year, but 2019 has already seen significant developments in the nation’s state houses regarding bullying and harassment.

The following is a snapshot of recent activity by state:

ARIZONA: With bipartisan support in the State Legislature, Gov. Doug Ducey repealed a 1991 law this month that barred public school teachers from portraying “homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle” in the classroom. The move was spurred by a lawsuit filed on behalf of two teens who contended the law had destructive impacts on LGBTQ students – namely, that it held teachers back from building tolerance among student bodies and contributed to bullying. “I am so proud of this 12-year-old and this 15-year-old for standing up and suing our state to do the right thing, because today’s vote is long overdue,” Rep. Andrés Cano said on the Arizona House floor. ” Our schools should be safe; they should be inclusive; they should be free from harassment, bullying and stigmatization.”

INDIANA: The Indiana House of Representatives rejected a measure that would have required private schools that accept state funding to follow the same anti-bullying rules as their public school counterparts. According to a report by WRTV of Indianapolis, the bill called for non-public schools to implement a protocol for investigating incidents, timetables for sharing information about incidents with police and parents, and to offer anonymous reporting option for students, among other steps. More encouraging for Indiana, is House Bill 1607, legislation that would allow students to get a protective order to stop bullying including cyberbullying.

MARYLAND: “Grace’s Law 2.0” will carry stronger fines and jail terms for cyberbullying and make offenses easier to prosecute. The law was named after Grace McComas, a 15-year-old who committed suicide in 2012 after being victimized online. McComas’s parents were on hand as Gov. Larry Hogan signed the bill into law this month. One of the most prominent changes to the law makes it an offense to post harassing content online for the consumption of a broad audience, even if the target of the bullying doesn’t see it.

MASSACHUSETTS: Gov. Charlie Baker re-filed a bill in February that aims to modernize the law regarding revenge porn, sexting and cyberbullying. The legislation would provide prosecutors with new flexibility to enroll minors who are caught sharing sexually explicit images with their peers into educational diversion programs, rather than charging them for the distribution or possession of child pornography. It would also require schools to educate their students on the harm they can cause by sharing sexual images with others as a means of bullying. In addition, the law would close a prosecution loophole for those over 18 who share images that were taken consensually for the purposes of revenge or embarrassment. The bill was first proposed in 2017, but failed to clear the Legislature at the time.

NEW JERSEY: The state became the second in the nation to require public school districts to develop an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. Signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in February, the legislation will ensure that instructional materials reflect the political, economic and social contributions of LGBTQ Americans and people with disabilities. The advocacy group, Garden State Equality, celebrated the announcement, noting in a statement that reflecting more diversity in class lessons “will cultivate respect towards minority groups, allow students to appreciate differences, and acquire the skills and knowledge needed to function effectively with people of various backgrounds.”

NEW MEXICO: The Safe Schools for All Students Act will require school boards to enact comprehensive bullying prevention policies and procedures by New Year’s Day. Signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in April, the act demands schools provide avenues for reporting bullying (both orally in their preferred language and anonymously), a process for investigating complaints of bullying, due  process for students accused of bullying, and a range of disciplinary measures for students found to have bullied other students. The law specifically cites the need for better protecting LGBTQ students and demands that schools’ new bullying policies be communicated in various languages in student handbooks. Schools will also have to report annually on their progress implementing the act.

NORTH DAKOTA: State officials amended North Dakota’s 2011 anti-bullying law to require that schools develop plans for addressing online abuse taking place off school grounds. Although some officials expressed reservations about schools becoming liable for off-campus incidents, the bill overwhelmingly passed both houses of the Legislative Assembly and was signed by Gov. Doug Burgum in April. The law calls for schools to get involved in situations where electronic communications initiated off grounds  place the student in “actual and reasonable fear” of harm and “interferes with the student’s educational opportunities or substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the public school.” It also requires school district personnel to notify police if they have a reasonable suspicion that a crime might have occurred on or off school property.

 Click here to learn more about anti-bullying laws, policies and regulations on the books throughout the U.S.

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