BRF School District turns to app to help end bullying in schools
To help reduce bullying and its effects including suicide in the Black River Falls School District, the STOPit app was rolled out in October to provide students with a completely anonymous way to report issues they are having.
“The STOPit app is an incident management platform for schools where they provide an access code to all of their students to be able to report incidents anonymously via a mobile app,” Neil Hooper, STOPit chief revenue officer, said. “The school can then communicate directly back to the student who has reported something to collect more information or to give them any resources they may need if they need help, but it is ultimately to help put a stop to the bullying or aggressive behavior.”
Hooper said suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth in the U.S., which is why the app was created.
“Three years ago our founder, Todd Schobel, was driving home and he heard on the news about a young girl who committed suicide because she was being relentlessly bullied by other students in her school. The young girl didn’t have anywhere to turn—she was afraid to speak up, so she resorted to suicide,” Hooper said.
Black River Falls School District Superintendent Shelly Severson said this is a common problem among youth.
“It is unfortunate how many students and parents are not willing to report really poor behavior for fear of retribution,” Severson said. “There are too many kids who are unwilling to have that conversation because they are fearful the consequences for them are going to be worse than if it were not to be reported at all.”
Through the app, STOPit is also finding that it isn’t always those that are hurt that are reporting the incidents.
“It not only helps a child in need report they are being bullied, but also for their friends and the community to report that they are being bullied. We’ve found that using our technology, often a bystander or a witness will report on behalf of the victim and then the administration can put a stop to the bad behavior,” Hooper said.
The program was rolled out to fourth through fifth graders, middle school students and high school students using various tactics.
“Through classroom guidance lessons I delivered the message for what STOPit was and how to use it. October was National Bullying Prevention Month and so that’s when we decided to roll it out,” Red Creek Elementary counselor Maddie Vinzant said explaining how the app was presented to the fourth and fifth graders.
These students also brought home information for their parents.
“The STOPit website gave us lots of resources to use in communicating with parents about the app. Through their guidance lesson, they received a parent letter and on the back was an access code,” Red Creek Elementary School Assistant Principal Laura Simonson said.
In the middle and high school, students were actually allowed to download the app during a classroom presentation.
The STOPit app has had success in other schools with an average of two to five incidents reported per district each week. Within a year that number is reduced by 50-75 percent because those that bully begin to understand that the technology is effective.
“We also see that because it is a mobile technology, the administration can resolve issues in half the time than they would otherwise with traditional methods,” Hooper said.
Vinzant agrees and feels creating a mobile solution for this issue is perfect for kids today.
“That is how they talk to friends and peers—through technology, so for them to have that same avenue to report something that they know isn’t right or something that they are worried about is just second nature to them and probably more comfortable than sitting face-to-face with a principal or counselor,” Vinzant said.
In the district, there is at least one administrator in each building that is set up to receive communications sent through the STOPit app.
“It is nice because it gives the kids the option to either message one of us or to report something. We talked about the differences and examples of things they could do for both of those,” Vinzant said.
Simonson said the process to set up the app was easy and straight-forward since each building has a different account.
“On our end it is a website that we go to and we get notifications on our phone or through an email that a report has been made,” Simonson said adding that they can receive notifications when they are away from their desk.
The district has received several reports so far. Simonson said Red Creek has had about five since the program was rolled out.
Severson said the app does cost money, but because of some help they were able to get the program for a nominal fee.
“The STOPit app is a product that actually our liability insurance carrier is helping to fund in districts that work with them because they believe very strongly in it,” Severson said.