Bullet-Proof Glass, Mental Health Teams Among New Efforts to Keep Frisco Schools Safe

By Hannah Costley

Bullet-proof glass, lockdown technology and stepped up intervention to help students at risk of hurting themselves or others are part of the Frisco school district’s newest efforts to keep schools safe.

After the deadly shooting at a high school in Santa Fe last year, Texas lawmakers made school safety a priority this past session by funneling additional money and requiring districts to enhance security efforts.

Frisco’s stepped up initiatives include focusing on mental health awareness for students and making campuses even more secure with enhanced features.

“When you look at the research, the best thing we can do to prevent school violence is to make sure every single kid has a place where they feel like they belong and they’re safe,” said Dr. Stephanie Cook, managing director of guidance and counseling services for Frisco schools.

And key to that is focusing on students’ mental health as their emotional well being has a direct connection to school violence, Dr. Cook said.

 

Enhanced building security for the district includes installing bullet-resistant glass to interior classrooms and campus lockdown technology, which can electronically lock doors and notify authorities in case of an emergency. In 2018, voters approved a bond package that included $4.3 million for such campus safety features.

The bond also includes $8.3 million for surveillance updates, which will help replace about 2,400 existing security cameras with updated models.

Texas’ new school safety bill requires districts to have an emergency plan. Frisco officials said in addition to that, the district is one of the few that has a position solely dedicated to emergency management. Jon Bodie, the emergency manager, works across the district to support training on safety, such as what to do in active-shooter situations.

“I definitely feel like we are ahead of the curve just from the standpoint of having a position fully focused on emergency preparedness,” Bodie said.

Schools have increasingly stepped up security since deadly school shootings like those at Columbine High School in 1999 and Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.

For over 10 years, Frisco has collaborated with local police, fire and other emergency officials on the Situational Awareness for Emergency Response, or S.A.F.E.R., program that allows FISD and authorities to conduct safety drills as well as gives them live feed access to cameras inside and outside of the schools. The unique program helps first responders and school administrators work together as they plan and practice responses to emergencies in real time, Bodie said

The STOPit app was created two years ago as a tool for students and parents to report concerns anonymously. The app allows users to upload pictures, video, audio and, most recently, screenshots. The app has been downloaded about 19,800 times and is constantly monitored, including on weekends and holidays.

“It’s been a very valuable program to us,” Bodie said. “The monitoring around the clock makes a big difference in how we’re able to respond.”

Frisco also offers resources for teachers, including webinar-based and scenario-based training that help prepare them for emergency situations.

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Rutherford County Schools Using Stop It! App As Tool For Students To Report Safety Concerns, Threats

Rutherford County Schools wants to provide a simple way for students to report threats or safety issues, which is why the district has launched the Stop It! reporting app.

“The intention of the app is to provide an easy opportunity for students to communicate concerns,” said School Safety Director David Crim, who is a former school resource officer with Rutherford County.

Launched in August, the app provides a way to report everything from bullying to school threats or suicidal statements, Crim said.

All leads are received by a call center which vets the validity of the report, classifies the threat and immediately reports the information to the school safety director, communication coordinator, staff attorney and respective administrators.

If the report is classified as urgent the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office is also contacted.

In the first three months since launching the app, there have been approximately 85 reports.

A vast majority of those reports have come from middle and high school students, who have the option to remain anonymous or chose to make their identity known. Elementary level students have occasionally used the app, Crim said.

There were three particular incidents when police officers were dispatched to a residence to check on a student’s wellbeing following suicidal threats.

“Those are some of the significant ones,” Crim said, “but we’ve also had drug use reported and potential violent situations, where people were being threatened or there was a fight that was going to break out at a certain time.”

The Stop It! App proactively prevented those incidents from taking place.

Stop It! is available as a free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play store. To use the app, students must obtain the local code from their school, which is provided on posters.

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New App ‘fills a gap’ For School Safety ‘STOPit’ Allows Students to Anonymously Report Threats

by Mark Dee

A pair of incidents at Blaine County schools brought student safety back to the fore last week. This year, though, administrators are using a new tool to help secure schools—and, they say, it’s already paying dividends.

Students at Carey, Silver Creek and Wood River middle and high schools started using the STOPit smartphone app to report incidents at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year. The online platform allows students to anonymously text administrators and school resource officers when they see suspicious behavior, and help staff coordinate a response.

So far, those tips have led to “successful interventions” on concerns involving self-harm, bullying, harassment, drugs and alcohol use, cyber-stalking and possible domestic violence between dating students, according to Hailey Police Officer Shawna Wallace, who is assigned to Wood River High School.

“I think it fills a gap,” Wallace said. “We’re capturing tips that wouldn’t be reported, because kids are too afraid or embarrassed to do it in person.”

Different schools can set it up differently, Wallace said. When a report is made at Wood River High School, Wallace, Director of Student Safety Dave Stellers, Principal John Pearce, and Vice Principals Julia Grafft and Keith Nelson all receive notices on their own phones. From there, the team assigns a member to investigate the tip. They can make notes in the app, close the case when it’s done and file it away in a common record stored with Stellers.

At Wood River Middle School, Principal Fritz Peters, Vice Principal Rob Ditch, social worker Tod Gunter and School Resource Officer Brad Gelsky get the message. They’ve gotten 14 reports this year: 12 legitimate and two hoaxes, Peters said.

“While the number of reports is relatively low, the app has been very useful for us, as well as for the person reporting the incident,” he said. “Overall, the effectiveness of the app will be determined over time, but the key aspect for our community is that students, staff and parents feel good about reporting incidents to school officials and school resource officers.”

At that age, it’s mostly bullying. The anonymous dialogue has been “key” in encouraging witnesses to reach out, Peters said.

For Wallace, it does change the way she investigates a tip.“You have to keep that in the back of your mind,” she said.But kids need to check a box reminding them that they could face legal action for calling in false reports. Wallace said she’s had “a few” at the high school, “but it hasn’t been a problem.”

STOPit continues to send notifications to staff over the weekend, though they aren’t required to monitor it after hours. Wallace does anyway, and so do other administrators, she said. STOPit Solutions, which runs the app, does, too; an operator with the company gets all off-hours tips, and can notify law enforcement if something rises to that level.

While technology can broaden their reach, both Wallace and Peters agree that there’s no substitute for the strong relationships staffers hope to build.

Last Tuesday, Hailey police responded to a potential threat against Wood River High School after students reported a suspicious Snapchat image to school staff during a volleyball game. Earlier that day, teachers at Ernest Hemingway STEAM School in Ketchum were notified that a student had brought a knife to school. Both cases were resolved without incident—and both were reported face-to-face.

“I still want kids to trust us,” Wallace said. “I like that they trust us, and I hope that they’ll come and talk to me if anything’s wrong.”

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Local Elementary School Spreading Kindness with New Anti-Bullying Campaign

by:

MAX MEADOWS, Va. (WFXR) – October is National Bullying Prevention Month and Wythe County Public Schools are getting behind the launch of a new kindness campaign.

“It’s nice to watch them practice it and focus not just on the negative side, not just on bullying and the negative behaviors, but to focus on the positivity and how we can take something and spread it,” says M.J. Fogelsong, school counselor at Max Meadows Elementary school.

Bullying in schools continues to be a growing concern in schools across the country. According to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, more than 1 out of every 5 students report being bullied.

In observance of national anti-bullying awareness, the school district has started “Cool to be Kind”, a campaign that allows students to focus on spreading kindness to one another. Throughout the month of October, participating schools are competing against one another with their campaigns, and staff members at Max Meadows Elementary School are hoping they win.

On October 1, 2019, they kicked off their campaign by inviting members of the Wythe County Sheriff’s Department, Max Meadows Fire Department, Commonwealth Attorney Mike Jones, and Wythe County School board members to greet parents and students as they arrived for school Tuesday morning.

From writing Thank-You letters to performing Random Acts of Kindness PSAs on the school’s social media, students at Max Meadows are hoping to spread kindness throughout the entire community.

“They’re being more aware of their interactions and we’re talking in guidance class a lot about bullying and what that really is, what it looks like, what to do when you do see that, and the right things to do. Of course, we do this every year, so we’ve kind of been training them with what to do and who to tell and what it looks like but they’re really good at responding to that and encouraging each other,” says Fogelsong.

Along with the campaign, Wythe County Public Schools have launched “StopIt”, a new app that allows students to safely and anonymously report instances of bullyings, threats of violence, or self-harm.

School officials say they hope to continue their efforts to provide a positive and safe school environment for all of their students.

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Putnam Schools Using New Threat Reporting App

By Jim Herrin
“A core value of the Putnam County school system is that every student has the right to a safe, secure, and challenging learning environment that promotes his or her physical, social, emotional and academic development,” King said. “With the support of students, parents and community members, we believe we can continually improve our school environments so all students feel safe, secure and respected.”
 
With STOPit, students can submit anonymous reports containing text, photos, or video. Administrators are then able to manage incidents in a backend management system called STOPit Admin.
 
“STOPit Admin provides efficient and powerful investigative tools to our staff, including the ability to message with the reporter, which will allow us to address issues instantly,” King said.
 
He said the app has other applications as well.
 
“STOPit will also help us go beyond reacting to bullying and inappropriate behavior, and instead start deterring it,” he said. “As young people continue to engage more with technology every day, we are taking a proactive step to empower our students to be engaged in our community in the way that they feel most comfortable.”
 
King said students that have mobile devices are encouraged to download the app and use it to report situations where they feel unsafe or when they see things that might be unsafe. Students that do not have access to mobile devices are encouraged to continue reporting situations to a teacher, counselor, administrator, or other staff members they trust. 
 

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New App Helps Mission Heights Students Report Bullying, Safety Issues

By Melissa St. Aude

Many of the students at the school had downloaded the app by early Friday afternoon, according to Davenport.

Once a report is made through the app, administrators are able to analyze the issue using a back-end management tool that includes the ability to message with the student who made the report.

“This allows us to address issues instantly,” Davenport said. “STOPit will help us go beyond reacting to bullying and inappropriate behavior and instead start deterring it.”

STOPit Solutions created the app in response to cyberbullying in schools nationwide.

“What began as a tool to combat bullying in schools has now grown into a suite of customizable products and services meant to inspire speak-up cultures in not only the education space, but also the workforce and public safety sectors, spanning over 3.5 million subscribers,” STOPit Solutions says on its website.

Davenport said the goal is to empower students to work toward a more positive school climate and learning environment.

“As young people continue to engage more with technology every day, we are taking a proactive step to empower our students to become ‘upstanders’ in our community in the way that they feel most comfortable,” he said.

MHP seems to be one of the only schools in the area using the STOPit app.

The Casa Grande Elementary School District doesn’t use an app for reporting bullying but refers students to the DHS.gov “See Something, Say Something” website.

“Each school has their own methods in terms of encouraging students and families to express their concerns,” said Michael Cruz, communications and marketing specialist for CGESD. “As we continue to explore our district and school safety response plans, we may consider platforms that facilitate such reporting services. This entire year, our district will be improving security at all schools.”

The elementary school district is working to update its visitors management systems, electronic access system, enhanced video surveillance and other safety factors, Cruz said.

The Casa Grande Union High School District also does not use the STOPit app, said Superintendent Steve Bebee.

At MHP, along with the new app, a series of safety drills were held to teach students how to respond in a dangerous on-campus situation such as a school shooting.

Through the drills, the students learned the school’s evacuation process and parent-student reunification procedure.

“With the help of the Casa Grande Police Department and some parents, each of these drills went smoothly,” Davenport said. “Our students also handled themselves very maturely.”

The school plans to hold emergency drills once a month throughout the school year.

“We know parents and students must feel safe so they can focus on getting the best education possible and be prepared to succeed at the nation’s top institutions of higher learning,” he said.

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Trinity’s STOPit Reporting App By The Numbers

By: Kayla Henson

He said students who were too tolerant of harmful or offensive behavior before are now reporting the behavior to him.

The vaping incident involved three junior high students. One boy was trying to get two girls to vape. The bullying incident also involved a junior high student and resulted in a parent meeting.

Of the incidents reported, 68% were from junior high school students.

Hochhalter believes some of the reason for the lower reporting by high schoolers comes from their higher tolerance for behavior and that they may feel more comfortable talking to him directly.

“Junior high schoolers are still pretty intimidated by me. I’m student council adviser, I’m a track coach, and I’m the prom adviser, so they see me in a different vein, and they’re more trusting of me. (To) junior high kids, I’m still the mean guy. If I’m in trouble, I talk to Father,” he said.

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Carmel High School Introduces New Program To Stop Sexual Assaults

 

CARMEL, Ind. (WTHR) – They pass background checks. They go through training. But sometimes, teachers and coaches break the rules.

Carmel Clay Schools leaders know this reality, and that’s why they’re turning to your kids to step up to stop sexual assault.

“Step Up to Stop Sexual Assault” is the name of a new empowerment program at Carmel High School. The school is getting help on this new initiative from a local law firm, Church, Church Hittle + Antrim.

By the end of the school year, about half of Carmel High School’s student body will have gone through the program.

“We’re starting with athletics because that’s where a lot of these problems happen. Band,” said Carmel Clay Schools Superintendent Michael Beresford. “We’re focusing on activities where there’s a lot of time spent with each other and with adults.”

Fall athletes, band members, and students in various clubs are going through the program right now. Instead of having a normal practice, they’re spending about 45 minutes diving into questions such as:

  • What is sexual assault?
  • Why report it?
  • How do you report it?

“I think maybe the most important part is just understanding it at first,” said Carmel High School Senior and Football Player Aidan Ellison. “What sexual assault is? Look it up online and then spread the word. Tell your friends. I think that’s the best way to stop it. Talk to your community. Be open about it. Don’t be afraid to talk about it.”

Carmel Clay Schools Athletics Director Jim Inskeep says parents need to keep this conversation going at home and ask questions.

“We spent so much time and energy focusing on educating our coaches, our teachers, our faculty sponsors in different areas throughout the district so when we give that information to them, it’s great, but there’s another component to this that’s missing,” said Inskeep.

Inskeep says having students go through sexual assault training was the missing piece. Part of the program includes showing students a YouTube video called Tea Consent. It asks for you to imagine, instead of initiating sex, you’re making the person a cup of tea. The three minute video ends by saying: “Whether it’s tea or sex, consent is everything.”

“We believe 110 percent that if we give our kids good information, and we give them some simple tools that they will make good decisions,” said Beresford.

Another one of those tools is the STOPit app. Students can report sexual assault or any other concern to an adult anonymously through this app. About 5,600 students in Carmel have downloaded and signed up for this app. Last year, about 1,000 anonymous reports were submitted through the app in Carmel. The top three concerns students had were mental health issues, classmate conflicts and cyber incidents. Beresford says this app has helped save the life of at least one student.

“We want to keep encouraging our kids,” said Beresford. “They are the eyes and the ears of the school, and if they want to have a safe school and a good environment, it’s up to them. It’s another thing where they’re empowered to do that and they’re taking advantage of that opportunity. I’m proud of them.”

Below are more resources on how to talk with your child about sexual assault:

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Worried About Your School Culture? How to Start a Bullying Prevention Program

By Caralee Adams, weareteachers.com

With research suggesting as many as one in three U.S. students are bullied at school, many educators are eager to find ways to make their buildings safe. Bullying affects not only the person being bullied but also the bully and bystanders, creating an environment in which it’s difficult to learn and succeed.

When setting up a bullying prevention program, experts says it’s important to have strong leadership from the top along with grassroots buy-in. Programs don’t have to cost a lot of money. It can take time and personnel to set up policies and reporting mechanisms, but a committed team can make progress and the effort is worth it.

Here are eight things to consider when embarking on a bullying prevention program:

1. Be comprehensive.

Bullying is a complex issue that emerges in homes, schools and communities as kids model adult behavior. Efforts to address it should be developmentally appropriate and include all invested parties. Jessica Toste, assistant professor in the college of education at the University of Texas in Austin, suggests asking for input from teachers from different grade levels and content areas, administrators, mental health professionals, students, other school staff members and perhaps a parent or community member. It may start with a big assembly, but the conversation needs to continue in the classroom with teachers, among student groups, and at home with families to build trusting relationships at all levels.

2. Accentuate the positive.

Rather than anti-bullying, frame the effort as one that promotes a positive school culture and acceptance. “The majority of teachers and administrators want their schools to be environments that are safe and positive and affirming for their students,” says Toste. In addition to academic skills, schools are increasingly seeing the value of promoting social-emotional learning – teaching kids how to regulate their emotions, demonstrate compassion, and accept people from different backgrounds and cultures. With that climate as the foundation, bullying can become less of an issue.

3. Commit to the long term.

Research shows that for bullying prevention efforts to work, schools should commit to programs for the long-term. “It’s something that needs to be in place regularly because these aren’t issue that we clean up and then everything is better. They are issues with humans interacting and kids learning,” says Toste. One example of an ongoing effort is the Reaching Out with Character and Kindness—or ROCK—program at Keller Independent School District in northern Texas, now entering its fourth year. ROCK is both proactive, with staff and student training, as well as reactive, with a process to report and investigate bullying incidents, says Laura Lockhart, coordinator of student services at Keller. The steering committee is a standing committee that recognizes the importance of committing to the long-term culture. “Bullying is not going away after doing one exciting assembly. It’s something that is deeper than that,” says Lockhart. “Reaching out with character and kindness is just part of who we want to be.”

4. Customize to fit your needs.

The committee at Keller worked together to come up with a mission and vision for ROCK. Students helped come up with the acronym and logo. “Whenever you get something out of a box, it doesn’t meet all of the unique needs of your community,” says Lockhart. “It was very important that it was designed with Keller ISD in mind … getting as many voices involved was crucial.”

5. Get buy-in from the cool kids.

Bullying is often linked to social status and is perpetrated by some of the most popular kids in school. Paul Coughlin, who speaks about bullying in schools and is the founder of Medford, Oregon-based nonprofit The Protectors, says any efforts to stem bullying need to include kids who are in positions of power and hold up a mirror to show the reality of what they are doing. “Many of these kids are aware they are being cruel, but many are not aware of the extent of their cruelty,” says Coughlin. “Unfortunately, they don’t have the necessary empathy and sympathy for the child that they are bullying.” Sometimes showing bullies a video of another bullying incident and explaining that what they are doing is similar can resonate, suggests Coughlin.

6. Make a splash.

Messages that promote a positive school culture need to be visible in classes, hallways and in the community. At Keller ISD, a special merchandise committee sells fun items, such as bracelets and T-shirts, with the ROCK logo to promote the brand and program, says Lockhart. The communications committee makes sure ROCK is talked about on Twitter and through newsletters. Experts add that free materials are available to distribute from websites such as StopBullying.gov.

7. Get a handle on the problem.

Consider surveys of students to truly evaluate the school climate and effectiveness of programs, suggests Toste of the University of Texas. Ask how students feel about safety and if they have someone in the building they feel they can go to if they are in need. Compare results before and after initiatives have been launched to fine-tune the work.

8. Set up a good reporting system.

Setting up a process to report and track bullying can be a powerful tool, experts suggest. To make sure the response to bullying is appropriate, Keller ISD set up an investigation process aimed at getting the entire story so the solution can be informed and keep everyone safe, says Lockhart. Schools also may want to consider an anonymous reporting system, suggest Coughlin. Some apps, such as STOPit, can make reporting easier and cut down on bullying.

As for the future, Coughlin predicts the bullying landscape will get worse with the lack of civility in broader society and with negative politics this campaign season. Still, it will get better in pockets of resistance and with support from concerned parents, he says. Schools that get it right and become known for taking the issue seriously can find it’s an opportunity to attract students, adds Coughlin.

“You can’t educate well with the presence of bullying,” says Coughlin. “Having the presence of bullying in the classroom and trying to teach is like having a gas leak. There are going to be a few kids who can do it, but they are going to be surviving, not thriving. They are just trying to make it through the day.”

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Dickson school violence prevented: Student tips avert assaults, police say

“An emphasis of ours this year is ‘See Something -- Say Something,’ which encourages students to report items to authorities. This has been coupled with our STOPit App, which allows students to anonymously report items through the social media platform.”
male testimonial icon
Steve Sorrells
Director of Student Services

In the first incident last month, police said a student informed a school resource officer at a football game of a threat of violence made by another student. The SRO notified investigators who again located and interviewed the student, who was cited in a juvenile court petition.

Police said in an incident the next day, a student informed a parent of a threat to commit violence by a classmate and the parent notified school officials who called police. Investigators again found the threat credible enough to seek a juvenile court petition.

“The fact that we were able to stop potential acts of violence in the schools before they happened is the direct result of students being brave enough to tell an adult about the threats,” said Dickson Police Department Chief Jeff Lewis. “In all three of these incidents, a student heard something and told either a parent, grandparent or school resource officer, who then took the steps necessary for law enforcement to investigate the threats and stop a potential violent act. This will always be our first and best line of defense.”

DCHS administrators and Dickson County schools officials worked with law enforcement to ensure the safety of all students.

Director of Student Services Steve Sorrells said the school system not only stresses the importance of reporting potential issues, but is utilizing technology to give students another way to advise school officials.

“An emphasis of ours this year is ‘See Something — Say Something,’ which encourages students to report items to authorities,” Sorrells said. “This has been coupled with our StopIt app, which allows students to anonymously report items through the social media platform.”

Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks added that the school system and local law enforcement work well together to ensure a safe learning environment for all students.

“We are so appreciative of the relationship that the school system has with both the City of Dickson Police Department and the Dickson County Sheriff’s Office, who assist us in working through situations such as these,” Weeks said. “Safety is our first priority and our first responsibility to our staff and our students.”

Because the records of juvenile court are sealed by law, it is not known what legal actions were taken against the three students cited for making the threats. School system policy states that once the case is adjudicated, the students who return to the school system face assignment to New Directions Academy for a term to be decided by the Disciplinary Hearing Authority.

“Students should take any threat of violence by a classmate seriously and report it immediately to a parent, teacher, administrator or school resource officer,” said Lewis. “This is one of the top reasons the City of Dickson has been committed to placing an SRO in every school in the city. These officers can develop a relationship of trust with students who will then be more willing to come forward with any potential threats.”

The Dickson County School System’s Student Handbook says threats to the safety or property of others are “so serious that they usually require immediate administrative actions, which result in the immediate removal of the student from the school, and/or the intervention of law enforcement authorities and/or action by the Board of Education.” Threats of violence constitute a Level IV disciplinary violation.

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