A lot is going on in our nation's K-12 schools today, and not all of it is good. Youth violence is a public health and social issue, with some students experiencing bullying, physical assaults, self-harm, sexual assaults, substance abuse issues, and more. Additionally, experts believe that a lot of school-associated violence remains unreported to the authorities due to ineffective systems in place and other factors that prevent observers from taking appropriate actions, according to the report, 40 Student Crime Statistics: 20201/2021 Data, Analysis & Predictions.
K-12 schools throughout the U.S. are looking for effective ways to identify at-risk individuals and situations that may lead to a wide range of harmful events involving:
- single individuals (self-harm, suicide, substance abuse)
- groups of individuals (bullying, harassment, fighting, sexual assault)
- whole campuses (school shootings and bomb threats)
The ability to quickly gather, disseminate, and respond to information about an evolving and potentially harmful event can mean getting at-risk students the help they need. Quick, accurate reporting and appropriate, timely responses can improve outcomes and save lives.
6 Key Features Needed in an Anonymous Reporting System (ARS)
A best-in-class ARS has the right combination of access, process, and communications. It enables the team to gather, manage, inform and document submissions and courses of action in an all-in-one tool. Here are six features that are critical for a K-12 ARS:
- Easy Access - Your ARS must be easy to access by anyone who wants to report concerning behavior or communication at a moment's notice. This means your ARS needs to be accessible from a mobile app (iPhone and Android), laptop or PC, and phone—basically whatever the 'device of choice' of every student, teacher, and staff member, at any given point in time.
- Support for all File Formats - Because we now live in a digital world, an incident report will often include a text, video, Instagram screenshot, photo, or link that caused concern and initiated the report. Your ARS must have the technical chops to quickly receive a wide range of file formats for easy viewing.
- Transparency - Anyone coming forward with information must be confident that those in positions of authority will take the input seriously and investigate and intervene as necessary. Understanding how to use the system for reporting and the steps involved during the review and escalation process should be clearly defined and periodically assessed for improvements.
- Training - Training is critical and should include using the system and identifying the different types of warning signs and threats that should be reported. All users need to know how to discreetly gather information, including viewed texts, images, pictures, and social media posts. For example, to stay anonymous, reporting that includes a Snapchat post requires taking a picture of what is on the screen using a separate device (and not a screen capture that notifies the originator).
- 2-Way Messaging - Some reporting requires additional information immediately. Being able to both send and receive information during an emergency or a rapidly developing crisis is critical for keeping everyone safe. Two-way communication starts a conversation between the reporter and the threat assessment team. This helps the team stay informed on the status of an ongoing event and can offer real-time support, if needed, to the reporter.
- 24/7/365 Incident Response Center -A best-in-class ARS includes a 24/7/365 Incident Response Center with certified specialists who monitor, manage and notify officials and 911 (as needed) of submitted incidents. The specialists alert assigned officials via escalation email, text, and phone call when needed for any life-threatening situations.
Why an ARS Makes Sense
K-12 schools are responsible for ensuring a safe learning environment that promotes the physical, social, and emotional well-being of all students, teachers, and staff. It is critical to be aware of and take the necessary steps to prevent and address the range of issues that may harm individuals, groups, or the school community.
Although mass violence and school shootings are outwardly tragic and impactful, harmful events include a much wider range of incidents. The most common behaviors of concern reported in Incident Reporting Systems include identifying friends that are suicidal, drug-related activities, bullying, and self-harm such as cutting. An Automated Reporting System enables a community to work together to help at-risk students and create a safe and healthy school environment.
Targeted school violence is preventable. Learn more about STOPit Solutions by downloading The Ultimate Guide to Better Anonymous Reporting System Use