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New App to Debut Monday at Kingsland

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Kingsland students and administrators will have a new tool to try to stop bullying and other inappropriate behavior through a new online app called STOPit that students can download to their phones.

The high school is hosting an assembly on the first day of school Monday, Aug. 20, to roll out STOPit. Notification has already been sent out to parents about the program through the district’s Blackboard Connect system.

“The app allows two-way communication but does not identify the reporter. They may choose to identify themselves, and the building principals, social worker and guidance counselor monitor any messages sent through STOPit,” said Kingsland Superintendent and High School Principal Jim Hecimovich. “It’s meant to increase reporting so earlier interventions can be applied — it’s intended for student use so it can be reported immediately. Behaviors exist in all districts…they are unpredictable because we are dealing with human beings who can make choices. They can happen in every grade level. Some behaviors are more prevalent with certain age groups, such as sexual harassment. Our goal is to mitigate behaviors we are aware of, whether it’s vandalism, theft, harassment or any other behavior.”

Kingsland Public Schools enrolled with STOPit, a national technology platform for schools that deters and controls harmful or inappropriate conduct, to empower students with an easy app to safely and anonymously report anything of concern — from cyberbullying to threats of violence or self-harm. The company noted that STOPit empowers students to stand up for themselves and others while giving school officials insight to keep students safe.

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 DOCUMENTit, which provides investigative tools to staff, including the ability to message with the reporter, allowing school officials to address issues instantly.

“The largest problem we have is the lack of reporting until it’s too late or has blown up into a larger issue,” said Hecimovich. “We hope students will stand up and use it, because whatever tools we can employ will be helpful. Kingsland is a Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) district. PBIS works on positive efforts to encourage behaviors. We also encourage students to report. If we don’t know it’s happening, we can’t do anything about it.”

Hecimovich speculates it will be used often at first, something the company warned the district about. As it becomes more a part of the school routine, the frequency of reports decreases because issues are handled.

“The cost of the program was minimal, and only time will tell if the app is successful, but we plan to continue our focus on student safety to reduce the feelings of being unsafe,” said Hecimovich. “There are never any guarantees to end all behaviors. Take a look at our society — we have interventions ranging from speeding tickets to prison, and those haven’t stopped behaviors. But the most effective effort so far is students reporting. And I hope that students use it, and that parents would call the school with concerns — parents, encourage reporting by your child. We need to develop self-advocacy skills for our students.”

To learn more about STOPit, log onto www.stopsolutions.com, or contact Hecimovich or elementary principal Scott Klavetter at 507-346-7276.

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