Senior Year Stress: The Impact of a High School Senior Year Interrupted.

Right about now, they’d be practicing their procession toward the stage with the school band. Right about now, they’d be planning a “senior cut day” to the beach. Right about now, they’d be anxiously awaiting dorm assignments, planning backyard graduation parties, spending time with lifelong friends from whom they’d soon be separated.

“I expected to be stressed, but stressed about the good things,” Dunbar High School senior De’Asia Scott observed to WTOP radio in Washington, D.C. “But in reality, I’m stressed about the same thing that everybody else is stressed about.”

That would be COVID-19, the destroyer of plans for America’s high school seniors. As the spring transitioned to summer, the coronavirus graduated from a threat that disrupted school schedules to one that is forcing students to rethink the first steps of their new lives.

Those who choose not to go the college route will soon enter a job market with unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression. Entire industries are shut down across the country — some poised to reopen this summer, but with the specter of a fall coronavirus resurgence looming large.

That prospect hasn’t been lost on the nation’s soon-to-be university freshmen. With higher-ed institutions already announcing remote or hybrid semesters in the fall, the odds of completing an uninterrupted term in person are clearly in doubt.

In a Carnegie Dartlett survey of 2,800 high school seniors, 33% said they’d defer or cancel their admission if classes were going to be held remotely. They want the college experience of their dreams – one where they’ll meet new friends, live away from their parents and enjoy all that campus life offers – and aren’t willing to sacrifice it for another indefinite string of months doing Zoom meetings. The idea of a gap year has even gained support with many parents, who are skeptical of paying full tuition for virtual learning.

High stress. High stakes.

The decisions today’s seniors face are difficult and carry great consequences. Not surprisingly, the emotions they’re experiencing are being shared across the globe.

According to research commissioned by Cluey Learning, 90 percent of Australian seniors reported feeling stressed by this year’s school disruptions, with a majority finding it even more troubling than typical teen factors like friendship pressures, family issues and body image concerns.

“The class of 2020 are under enormous pressure, and it’s understandable that their study is being impacted,” Cluey Chief Learning Officer Dr. Selina Samuels said. “But this is a unique opportunity for senior students to build resilience by learning how to manage their stress. If students can adapt to these changing circumstances, they’ll find that not only do they have a brilliant story to tell during interviews, but that they’ll approach everything else in life with just a little more confidence.”

Kids don’t need to go it alone. There’s help – and hope.

Certainly the only thing we know for sure right now is that the future is even more unpredictable than ever. But as Dr. Samuels acknowledged, the challenges that this year’s high school seniors face can also serve as opportunities to build emotional resilience and practice healthy self-care principals – two goals that are very possible thanks to new and refocused mental health and wellness resources available through federal, and local organizations.

For schools in the STOPit Solutions community, STOPit offers a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Center containing an easy-to-search database of thousands of articles, studies, video, audio and other content that can help school administrators assist with today’s elevated teen stress levels. The content is carefully curated by top experts in SEL-related fields and can be shared with individual students or broadcast to the full student body through the STOPit app.

In light of current events, STOPit is also offering a number of free and paid webinars, videos, and SEL resources on its website to aid educators in engaging with students. To view this content, visit https://stopitsolutions.com/covid-19/.

 

Additional Resources from the STOPit Blog

Additional Mental Health and Wellness Resources

Contact STOPit today and learn more about the anonymous reporting app being used to improve safety, mental health and well-being in more than 6,000 schools, nationwide. 

5 Changes Parents Are Making To Summertime Plans During the Pandemic

“Dad, are we going to have summer this year?”

The question from Matt’s young daughter, Cassady, offered a glimpse into her emotional state. She was feeling the stress and confusion from COVID-19 and worrying whether “normal” would ever return. Matt knew he needed to make her believe it would, and then make it happen.

“Yes, we’re going to have an unforgettable summer,” he reassured her. “It’s going to be a little different than past years, but we’re going to have fun and lots of new adventures.” Matt sat down with Cassady and asked her to brainstorm on all the fun things they could do this summer while social distancing. In just a few minutes, they filled two and a half blank pages.

Meanwhile, he also had to think about Cassady’s older brother, who as a rising seventh-grader, was too old for traditional camp but too young to be totally self-sufficient. The family was taking social distancing guidelines seriously, so letting him go to the beach or play pickup hoops games with his friends was out of the question. Without a plan in place, Matt worried it would be a long summer consumed by video games and social media. 

The bottom line is, summer must go on this year. To ensure children’s social and emotional learning continues, they need regular opportunities to play, exercise and socialize with their peers.

Parents will need to get creative to fill the void left behind by summer camps, family trips, visits with relatives and playing with friends. Amid the uncertainty, they are pivoting to alternatives they know they can rely on whether the pandemic sustains or worsens.

Virtual ‘Camps’

Just like the millions of parents who transitioned to working remotely, traditional summer camps are doing their best to replicate their activities virtually. It’s a formidable challenge for the traditional day camps that thrive on outdoor fun with large groups of kids. “That phrase, ‘social distancing,’ is not really in a camp’s vocabulary,” Ron Hall, executive director of the nonprofit Maine Summer Camps, told CNN. Yet many are ready to try, and are offering financial incentives such as affordable registration fees and steep discounts for next summer’s tuition if you support their business today. Parents should check the offerings at camps in their area, as each is approaching the challenge in its own way and the pandemic’s prevalence varies from place to place.

STEM and Art Classes

Kids can mix up the fun with weekly science and art camps offered both by local businesses and by national leaders in the virtual learning experience space. New Jersey’s Brookdale Community College has partnered with tech-education leader Black Rocket to organize a series of Virtual Summer STEAM Camps offering kids ages 8-14 live lessons in video game design, coding, creating YouTube content, and deep dives into popular games like Minecraft and Fortnight. In-person Lego camps like Bricks 4 Kidz and Snapology have been very effective in moving their operations online, developing daily build challenges for various age groups and even moderating Lego play dates and birthday parties. Local art and culinary camps have adapted, too, offering curbside pickup for supplies that will be used each day for their online lessons. How about a ballet lesson from Misty Copeland or a basketball clinic with Stephen Curry? Teens and tweens can find affordable opportunities to train with their heroes in the arts and sports through online subscription services like MasterClass

Fun Home Improvements

The cost of some camps isn’t far off from a semester of college, yet, many parents work throughout the summer and need safe and healthy day activities for their kids. Fortunately, many of the alternatives emerging now recognize that there needs to be – and should be – affordable options for everyone. 

With the expense of traditional camp off the books for many, some parents are choosing to invest a portion of that savings in equipment and home improvements that can entertain their kids all season long. Outdoor infrastructure like a basketball hoop or volleyball net, or indoor amusements like ping pong or pool tables can make memories (and rivalries) that will last a lifetime. If your child really misses the park, you can order a swing, slide and clubhouse set for the backyard — the assembly may even be a welcome diversion for dad. 

Get Outside

States ruled that outdoor play would be exceptions to the stay-at-home orders for good reason. It’s healthy, it’s safe, and it’s essential for keeping kids active at a time when the entire country, adults included, is basically grounded. Parents with yards should encourage their kids to go outside and give them leeway to do whatever they find fun, even if it’s messy. “Parents worry they don’t have outside activities for their kids, but the reality is children naturally know how to play,” Christy Merrick, director of Natural Start Alliance, observed in National Geographic. It also happens to be a uniquely good time to enjoy the outdoors, as data has shown dramatic improvements in air quality and other environmental conditions since March.

Keep Social While Distancing

With a bit of imagination and a healthy dose of personal responsibility, friends can find ways to spend time together. It’s a matter of figuring out ways to keep far enough away from each other to avoid risk, yet close enough to carry on a conversation. Taking a well-distanced bike ride through the neighborhood can be a great way to exercise and socialize. The same can be said for hikes on a nature trail or even walks through the neighborhood with the kids keeping to opposite sides of the street.

Be Alert for Online Abuse

Of course, the pandemic has driven so much of young people’s social lives online. The use of social media, screen-sharing apps and text messaging have surged as kids try to stay in touch and maintain a semblance of their social lives. With this greater reliance on digital communications comes the increased risk of cyber-bullying and abuse.

Although classes will conclude in a few weeks, schools who have partnered with a reliable anonymous reporting tool like STOPit should continue monitoring their account for reports of abuse, bullying or other threatening and harmful behaviors. And for increased coverage as summer break begins, STOPit’s 24/7 incident monitoring service is a valuable add-on to ensure that any time-sensitive reports receive immediate attention.

Whether it’s this fall or a year from now, America will beat COVID-19 and send its kids back to school. It will be crucial that they aren’t carrying with them tensions that were brewed online, adding to what will already be a stressful situation for school staff, parents and students alike.

Contact STOPit today to learn how it’s anonymous reporting platform can help thwart cyberbullying and conflicts within your student body throughout the summer months.

Act Now: Schools Can Apply to Get STOPit Solutions’ Award-Winning Safety Platform at No Cost

“Don’t wait. There are students who need this right now and students who will need it more than ever when school returns to ‘normal’ from COVID-19.”

–Chris Moddelmog, Executive Director, Smoky Hill Education Service Center

The nation’s Educational Service Agencies (ESA) provide schools with important resources by creating efficiencies and opportunities through strategic partnerships. Not only do they help member districts create financial strength by improving their purchasing power, but they also make it easier for schools to apply for a wide variety of grant funding opportunities available nationwide. These grants are often used to pay for priorities like school safety and student mental health programs. In fact, many ESAs are right now working with partner schools to apply for federal STOP School Violence Act grants that will cover the launch of STOPit’s anonymous reporting platform in schools at no cost to the district.

Among them is the Smoky Hill Education Service Center, which represents public and private school districts in 25 Kansas counties. The ESA and STOPit have already pooled their grant writing expertise to obtain funding to set up the app in 50 school districts. STOPit recently spoke with Smoky Hill Executive Director, Chris Moddelmog, to find out more about this opportunity and what his stakeholders are saying about the grant application and implementation process.

STOPit: What have you heard from your schools about working with STOPit?

“The feedback has been fantastic, from the introductions to the technology to the experience of getting to know more about the organization. Members of the STOPit team are easy to get in touch with and they’re always open to our ideas about the best ways to implement the solution in the schools. All of the schools I’ve talked to say it’s been easy to work with STOPit.”

STOPit: What were your goals for working with STOPit? What benefits did you hope it would bring for your school districts? 

“First and foremost, student health and wellbeing,” says Moddelmog. “We wanted to provide them with a solution that would make a difference. No learning can take place in our classrooms if the students are anxious, fearful and depressed. STOPit’s solutions and the services they offer to counselors and school resource officers are great, and we’d like to make them available to all of our schools. 

I’d also like to use the data collected by the system to learn more about the specific kinds of issues that are being reported in the schools,” he says. “This information will be valuable to our school districts and help us work with them to deliver exactly the kind of help our students need.” 

STOPit: What makes Educational Service Agencies so well-positioned to help schools implement high-level resources like STOPit’s anonymous reporting app and other services?

“For schools that need help with instructional strategies or accessing tools like STOPit, we have those consultants on staff and can send them to schools to get that work done without additional financial or staff burden. We’re also nimble and can sometimes allocate resources more effectively than a small school district can,” says Moddelmog.

“We have close working relationships with our districts,” he continues. “They get calls from everyone under the sun trying to sell them something. We promise our districts that when we bring them something, we’ve answered the questions, ‘Is this something our districts really need and will it provide real value?’ We vet the companies and only suggest opportunities after we’ve conducted due diligence to be able to confidently recommend the service and/or service provider. That’s why we feel completely comfortable recommending STOPit.”

STOPit: ESAs can take advantage of the STOP School Violence Act to acquire federal grants for STOPit services, but time is of the essence. What should ESA administrators be doing right now to ensure their schools can acquire these funds?

“When we partner to apply for STOP School Violence Act grants, the process couldn’t be simpler for schools. Once a district has selected the specific menu of STOPit services that suits its needs, STOPit writes the grant, submits the application, sets up the technology, trains school staff to use it, and helps build excitement for it throughout the student body and community.”

Moddelmog concludes, 

“Don’t wait. There are students who need this right now and students who will need it more than ever when school returns to “normal” from COVID-19. Students and staff will come back and we’ll be dealing with something that they’ve never dealt with before. Schools can either contact STOPit directly to set up a time to demo the app, or they can call me first to talk about the success we’ve seen and our experience.”

Contact STOPit today to learn more about their anonymous reporting platform and how you can work with your regional ESA to implement anonymous reporting in your district, for free.  

The deadline to contact STOPit to affirm interest in this opportunity is May 15. The deadline to submit a grant application for the current grants cycle is June 9, 2020.

Schools are Winning Grants to Improve Safety and Security on Campus: Read How.

“Nothing is easy in education, but they (STOPit Solutions and our ESA) made it very easy to apply for this grant. It was just so nice to be able to go through a process this straightforward.” Kathy Robertson, Support Services and Security administrator, El Dorado Schools District. 

School administrators around the country are taking advantage of an exceptional funding opportunity to improve safety and security at their schools and get STOPit’s anonymous reporting system – at no cost. Educational Service Agencies (ESA’s) are not-for-profit cooperatives that pool important resources for member school districts, making them easier to access and more affordable to taxpayers. Thanks to a special partnership between ESA’s and STOPit Solutions, many schools are getting the grant-writing assistance they need to successfully apply for federal STOP School Violence Grant Program funding, for free. 

Simple Process. Successful Outcomes.

Kathy Robertston and Melanie Burris, representatives from two school districts that successfully applied for funding, share their experience about the application process and why they chose STOPit.

STOPit: Can you briefly describe the process of working with your ESA and STOPit to secure funding?

“A former coworker of mine from another school district reached out to let us know about the opportunity. We were told about an online demo that we could go through to learn more about STOPit and then follow up with any questions,” says Kathy Robertson, Support Services and Security administrator for the El Dorado (Kansas) Schools District. “After it was over, we jumped right on the opportunity. I had to provide STOPit and the ESA with some basic contact information, some numbers for how many kids are in our schools, and that was about it. We started the whole process on December 5; we got our approval on December 13.”

Melanie Burris, Instructional Supervisor and Federal Programs Coordinator for the Dardanelle (Arkansas) Public Schools, shares a similar experience. 

“The process was very easy. The ESA and STOPit worked together on the application, so for us, it wasn’t tedious or time-consuming at all. They handled the bulk of the work – all I had to do was supply some information about our demographics and a few more small details. Whenever I emailed the team with questions, I got immediate responses. We even found out about our grant approval quickly.”

STOPit: Why was implementing an anonymous reporting system like STOPit important for your school district?

“Prior to STOPit, the only option we had was a place that students could go online and fill out a Google survey, and the reports would go to the district’s communications director,” says Robertson. “The State of Kansas also has an anonymous, state-run hotline that students can submit tips to, and that information goes to the State Police, but few kids will use that. We really wanted something more for our district,” she continues. “Something that is customizable and can better accommodate the needs of our students and staff. One very important thing for us is that STOPit has 24-hour monitoring service, so emergencies can be reported day and night, weekend and holidays.”

Burris and her senior administration team had similar reasons for choosing the STOPit app.

“One of the reasons I investigated the tool was that our high school wanted to find a way to allow students to report incidents anonymously. When we learned STOPit was available and we were allowed to try it for free, our principal said, ‘Let’s do it.’,” she says.

“The reporting tools are a big benefit,” Burris continues. “Giving students the ability to report something that they wouldn’t have otherwise – because they know it’s guaranteed to remain anonymous – is a game changer.”

Burris concludes with a note about how COVID-19 has impacted their timetable for launching the tool. But she’s clear that getting started is simple, and they’ve already started training staff to be ready for when students return in the fall.

“We haven’t had the chance to roll it out to students due to COVID-19, but I was able to go through the process of training our principal and assistant principal. STOPit conducted the training with me through Zoom and walked me through all of the different things our schools needed to do to get started. It was straightforward; their customer care team is great, giving us every confidence this will be a tremendous benefit to our kids and school community.” 

Thanks to this partnership between STOPit and ESA’s, the process to apply is simple and the rate of success for obtaining funding is high – 100 percent so far.

We do the work. Schools get the grants. Act now.

STOP Act grants are awarded to help schools improve their security by providing the tools to recognize, respond quickly to, and help prevent acts of violence. 

Contact STOPit today to learn more about the anonymous reporting platform and how you can work with your regional ESA to implement anonymous reporting in your district, for free.  

The deadline to contact STOPit to affirm interest in this opportunity and provide grant input is May 15. The deadline to submit a grant application for the current grants cycle is June 9, 2020.

Q&A: Navigating the COVID-19 Crisis: SEL and Distance Learning – Tips for Parents and Youth to Stay Safe and Adjust

Melissa Straub is the founder of High Impact Youth Training Solutions, LLC, a consulting company that provides educational training and guidance on issues directly affecting youth, schools, and communities. We spoke with Melissa about how parents can deal with the challenges they’re facing in balancing working from home, virtual schooling, and the constantly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: The pandemic is a once in a century event that American parents, or even their parents, have never experienced. How can we address our children’s fear of the unknown at such a volatile moment?

Talking to your kids and assuring them they are safe is essential. Talk about what COVID-19 is and what it’s not, and debunk the rumors and false information. Reassure them that we all will get through this with a unified effort, but that we all need to take responsibility in order to stop the virus’ spread. Model the behavior you’re instilling and be aware of your own actions and words. Use age-appropriate language and simple terminology.

Let the children participate in setting the new norms for school scheduling and their other day-to-day activities and expectations. Children like to be heard and involved, and they crave structure. It’s OK for them to be fearful and it’s normal to have some sense of hopelessness. Reassure them, validate their concerns and encourage continuous conversations. 

Q: You touched on the importance of involving kids in setting the rules of the road during this time of home confinement. How can we do that constructively?

First things first, sit down and discuss what the new normal should be. Have the kids participate and provide input — they love to have a voice. Parents need to accept that the typical school day may be shortened and the work may not be as demanding as if the kids were attending school normally – you just have to go with the flow. Instill regular routines around bathing, sleep times, mealtimes and free time with some flexibility. Explain that teamwork and patience will be needed from everyone, since schedules and activities may have to change at times due to family members’ needs. Mom and dad are also working and have deadlines that need to be considered.

Q: Being cooped up in the house with your family for weeks or maybe months is bound to lead to some friction. How can we mitigate these conflicts?

There is no doubt that emotions are heightened within the family unit due to all of the unknowns and the stress of adjusting to distance learning. There will be some psychological fallout, feelings of isolation, anxiety and disconnectedness. We all need to pay attention to those ever-evolving emotions and do our best to address them. Having periodic check-ins or family meetings is key. Take that opportunity to initiate conversations and provide validation. If there is a notable change, please contact your family physician or look for online solutions and resources. Don’t ignore the issues, as they may get worse. Explain that it is normal to feel this way, that “we” can get through it, and this time in our lives is unprecedented but will pass in due time.

While we are all now familiar with the term “social distancing” and are practicing it the best we can, we still need to be social. We are social creatures by nature and kids more than ever will crave to fill the void in their lives. Encourage your kids to reach out to friends, family and others using the gift of technologies like FaceTime and Skype. We should also recognize the misinformation and bias that have become rampant during this crisis. Parents should be talking about diversity, inclusion and empathy throughout this time.

Mindfulness is a tool that can help ease both the mind and the body for all family members. Support moments of self-reflection, quiet and breathing, if only for a few moments a day. Taking a few minutes for the mind-body connection is essential during times of crisis and can help you adjust to the stressors.

Q: For many families, internet and TV time quotas have gone out the window, as parents can’t entertain their kids while they’re working. At the same time, the kids could be exposed to some frightening stories and messages related to COVID-19. How would you advise parents to deal with that?

Discussing the news and media coverage that your kids are seeing and hearing online is very important for demystifying the elephant in the room. Try to impose limits on the potential exposure, turn the TV off when children are in the room, and provide for open-ended conversation at the dinner table each night. While they are in the distance learning zone, outside of the educational material they have to engage with, have them explore other sites to keep them occupied. Several sites are offering virtual museum tours, educational resources and fun activities to keep children engrossed.  Emphasize the need for them to be socially responsible with the content they encounter by stressing the simple message, “If you see something, say something.”

Finally, have the courage to stand up and make a difference to help one another. This crisis is one that involves all of us and humanity will be measured when it’s finished.

Curious why over 5,000 organizations worldwide are using STOPit’s anonymous reporting software and 24/7/365 monitoring services?

When Kids Are Not #SafeAtHome: Cyberbullying Is An Increased Threat During COVID19

Last week, COVID-19’s impacts spread from the nightly news to the daily lives of millions of parents. With people in states across the country facing stay-at-home orders, employees transitioning to new work-from-home lifestyles and school buildings shuttered, Americans are trying to adjust to a new way of life that doesn’t appear likely to change any time soon.

Teachers and staff are doing their best to keep up productivity with the help of technology. At the same time, their job descriptions have expanded to include the duties of de facto school IT people, classroom aides, lunchroom monitors, principals and custodians, all while praying their kids don’t burst into their Zoom meetings.

And at the same time, in many households schedules are still in flux and in many cases, rules about screen time have been relaxed as a matter of survival in the struggle to balance parenting and work-from-home responsibilities. And at a time when kids are being forced apart from their friends, apps like FaceTime and group texts are not only being tolerated but encouraged. Social and emotional learning must continue, after all.

At the expense of adding one more worry to parents’ and teachers’ minds, the spike in online socializing carries the potential for a commensurate increase in cyberbullying. Dr. Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University, spoke of the looming challenge in a blog post.  

“Some of it will be mild, and some of it will be severe,” Hunduja said. “Some of it will be what they’re used to and won’t bother them, and some of it will be brand new—and a jarring, wounding experience. This may be especially true for those not used to learning and interacting in this way (and we are seeing how socio-economic inequities are being magnified because of the coronavirus).”

The FBI issued an alert on March 23, advising educators and caregivers to be vigilant for signs of online sexual exploitation and predatory behavior at a time when kids are particularly vulnerable. This view was echoed by Purdue University Polytechnic Institute Associate Professor Kathryn Seigfried-Spellar, an expert in cyberdeviance, who cautioned it may not be easy to detect the problems.

“Kids are usually not forthcoming with issues of cyberbullying because they’re afraid of losing their technology,” she said. “Some teens would rather be cyberbullied than have their Facebook page or Instagram account shut down.”

The threat of cyberbullying appears especially acute for students of Asian backgrounds: Authorities have reported numerous incidents of harassment and even violence directed toward Asian Americans, tied to the virus’ likely origin in China. Online, Asians are being scapegoated as the cause of the pandemic, mocked as belonging to cultures that eat bats and vermin, and even taunted by those who refer to COVID-19 in terms such as “the Chinese virus.” Some prominent Asian Americans have responded by sharing their stories on social media using the hashtag #WashtheHate.

A consortium of Asian American and Pacific Islander advocacy organizations last week launched Stop AAPI Hate, an online tool where victims or those who have witnessed anti-Asian violence, bullying or harassment can anonymously report incidents. The organizations plan to use the data to develop education and media campaigns, provide resources for impacted individuals, and advocate for policies and programs dedicated to curtailing racial profiling.

“We are currently providing support to a child who had to go to the emergency room after he was assaulted and accused by bullies of having the coronavirus, and so that tells us we may need to work with schools to address shunning and school bullying but we need to know how widespread it is,” said Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council, one of the groups that developed the reporting tool.

Anonymous reporting is a proven solution for dealing with cyberbullying, abuse and harassment issues in real time. STOPit’s easy-to-use app can serve as a critical avenue of information between students and school administrators at a time when young people are uniquely vulnerable. Tips submitted through STOPit will enable teachers to monitor, investigate, and take action against bad behavior in their virtual classrooms. 

Administrators can also use the app’s broadcast feature to share important resources with students that educate them on the threats and how to deal with them. STOPit’s own professionals can monitor the account during off hours to ensure that urgent reports are dealt with quickly.

Contact STOPit today to learn more about how anonymous reporting can help protect your student’s well-being throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Curious why over 5,000 organizations worldwide are using STOPit’s anonymous reporting software and 24/7/365 monitoring services?

The Cost of NOT Having a Comprehensive Safety Plan for Your School

As we come together as a nation and respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic, STOPit is working closely with our K-12 and higher education partners to help them leverage their STOPit tools to best serve students and staff. 

And even though classrooms are empty as students are learning from home during the national effort to flatten the curve, school administrators are as busy as ever, continuing with all the preparation for the 2020-2021 school year. This includes reviewing options to update their school’s comprehensive safety plan, because when it comes to budgeting for school safety, we know the “ABCs” are not as easy as 123.

The School Superintendents Association advises school districts to address three key areas to ensure their students and staff are properly protected – what it terms the ABCs of School Safety. It’s a simple and general list, but one that covers a broad swath of ground that would be daunting for anyone making financial decisions for their district. The ABCs are:

  • Awareness: Making sure everyone, including school staff and community members, are on the same page when it comes to safety. This requires the development and frequent refresh of safety plans, and engaging all stakeholders to make certain they are well acquainted with them in case of an emergency.
  • Balance: Avoiding a reliance on any one strategy or a narrow set of strategies. For example, schools should take care not to direct so much of their investment toward security infrastructure that they have no funding left for human connection initiatives like mental health services.
  • Control: Limiting access to the classroom only to those who belong there. Schools can control entry to school grounds with equipment purchases, security guard hires, tight visitor policies and other measures.

As school boards across the country gear up to craft spending plans for the 2020-21 fiscal year, they face a series of decisions and trade-offs as they try to cover those ABCs. They must stretch a limited pool of funding to cover every reasonable safety scenario that can be imagined, along with those that carry astronomically low odds. In the age of rising mental health and school safety problems, the cost of not having a plan and the resources in place to cover it all is too high not to pay.

What’s In Your Plan?

District leaders need to evaluate their schools’ unique hardware and building security needs, which carry different dimensions in rural, suburban and inner-city settings. At a time when climate change is causing more intense storms, chronic flooding and temperature extremes, schools need to have the proper equipment, training and plans in place to handle natural emergencies.

Schools need to ensure that adequate mental health programs are in place to help children in times of need, potentially staving off tragedies before they happen. And last, but not least, they need to have resources in place to deal quickly and decisively with threats and toxic behaviors.

A Washington Post investigative team surveyed administrators from 34 schools that suffered shooting incidents, including Sandy Hook Elementary, to find out what they learned from the experiences. According to the article, “When asked what, if anything, could have prevented the shootings at their schools, nearly half replied that there was nothing they could have done. Several, however, emphasized the critical importance of their staffs developing deep, trusting relationships with students, who often hear about threats before teachers do.”

Many schools have had success opening the lines of communication between students and faculty with the aid of anonymous reporting systems. Affordable, full service mobile platforms like STOPit Solutions, encourage students who might fear reprisal or feel anxiety about getting involved to share information that ultimately makes their classmates safe. STOPit saw the highest volume of reports filed in its history in the days following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, as students came forward with information they felt just might thwart a tragedy in their own schools.

STOPit can be customized to meet every school district’s needs, with options available for 24/7 emergency monitoring to ensure that problems are routed immediately to those who can help, no matter when they occur. Contact STOPit today to learn more about the role anonymous reporting can play in your school’s safety plan while remaining within your budget.



Curious why over 5,000 organizations worldwide are using STOPit’s anonymous reporting software and 24/7/365 monitoring services?

Conversations With STOPit Solutions: Interview with Maurine Molak of David’s Legacy Foundation

“You’re a tattle tail.”

The term brings back memories from childhood. Arguments with friends. Maybe siblings. But do you remember all of the times you were called a tattle tail when you weren’t actually being one? Sometimes, speaking up about inappropriate things going on is the unpopular vote amongst your peers; however, that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t still be said. In fact, quite the opposite. 

Empowering others to speak up is something that today’s guest devotes much of her time and energy to. In our most recent podcast, we are joined by Maurine Molak, the founder of David’s Legacy Foundation. David’s Legacy Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending cyber-assisted bullying, as well as other forms of bullying.

During our interview, Maurine speaks about how David’s Legacy Foundation is affecting education, legislation, and legal action as well as what it means to be a “Upstander.”

Listen above and be sure to email us if you or someone you know would like to be featured on our podcast.

For more information on David’s Legacy Foundation, please visit: www.davidslegacy.org
www.facebook.com/davidslegacyfoundation/
twitter.com/Davids_Legacy

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! 

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