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    August 23, 2018

    Students Return to a New School Year and The Data Shows Bullies Are Scouting for Targets

    The summer is rapidly drawing to a close and that means parents are scrambling to make the final preparations for a new school year. They’re taking their kids for fresh haircuts, buying new fall wardrobes and raiding stationery aisles for pencils, notepads and Trapper Keepers.

    The excitement is in the air for the students, too. What teachers will I have? Who’s going to be in my class? What were my friends up to all summer?

    But for some students, the wave of good feeling may be overshadowed by anxiety over bullying. An analysis of data aggregated during the 2017-2018 school year from the roughly 2,300 schools using the STOPit app last year reveals a clear trend – the first days of school are a prime window of time for bullies to scout their targets for the year.

    When the school doors open, administrators will initially see a minor blip in incidents. Then, like clockwork, a major spike will follow two to four weeks later.

    “This is traditional bullying behavior,” said STOPit Solutions’ Neil Hooper. “School opens. The aggressor finds the most vulnerable kids. They do some test bullying, and then the climate goes downhill from there.”

    But even as the threat of bullying exists, positive, successful interventions are also available and are being included in school culture more, each year. Beyond their core mission of educating students, the devoted teachers and administrative staff of schools throughout the country strive to provide a positive, safe learning environment free of such pressures.

    The diversity of student bodies is being celebrated in schools like never before and successful initiatives such as National Bullying Awareness Month — well timed in October to counter the surge in activity — are helping kids understand the importance of looking out for their classmates. All schools have safety protocols based on best practices, and that has increasingly entailed leveraging technology to empower kids against threats like bullying.

    “Although we hear about all the dangers and pitfalls of technology, I have seen the STOPit program flip the tables and use technology to combat bullying and suicidal ideation,” said Dr. Robb Killen, Supervisor of Counseling and Mental Health for the Maury County (Tenn.) Public Schools. “Adults cannot be everywhere in the school building, but our students are everywhere. With this program they can, more easily, stand up for each other and create a culture of safety, caring, and respect.”

    The fact is that many, more series consequences have been prevented by schools that have introduced programs to identify and report issues that may be leading up to tragic events. Programs like STOPit are becoming increasingly popular as districts want to start managing early warning signals – like harassment, bullying, substance abuse, threats and cyber abuse.

    To combat these threats — often less obvious but still requiring intervention — parents, teachers and administrators need to talk to students right away to make sure they understand their options for leaving an anonymous report if they, or someone they know, becomes a victim of bullying.

    Take the case of the Fairfax School District in Bakersfield, California, which started its academic year in August and immediately began working to get its student body acquainted with the STOPit system. According to a report via the area’s ABC News affiliate, the app has gained a foothold since being introduced in the spring, {with over 200 reports filed by students to date}.

    “It’s another tool for us to interact with our students in a manner,which otherwise, they probably would not,” Fairfax Superintendent Michael Coleman said. “If we can help one child that otherwise would not be helped, than why not do that? That’s our role. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”

    With the help of tools like STOPit, kids have a chance to become upstanders in the face of harassers. Without throwing a punch or risking embarrassment in the face of their peers, they can cut out a whole lot of dreading with a little bit of “letting” – letting a school administrator know about a problem and then letting them handle it.

    Contact STOPit to learn more about how your school can empower kids to create a safer culture in the classroom.


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