SOMERSET, Texas—Districts across Texas are finding new ways for students to report bullying, weapons, and other threats.
Somerset ISD is now rolling outSTOPit Solutions, a desktop and mobile app students can use to anonymously report things to campus administrators and school police
"It's not just for the safety and security, it's for the mental health of the entire district," said Chief Brian Bielefeld with the Somerset ISD Police Department.
Bielefeld says it's his first year in the chief position, and he's thankful technology like this is bridging the gap between students and staff.
"Now, they can do it completely anonymously, and they know it's gonna be seen and taken care of," Bielefeld said.
People in the district community can log in to STOPit and submit their report about what they see or hear.
Then, campus police, administrators and the superintendent get that report sent right to their phones so they can start acting on it.
The company tells us officials can ask for more information, and students can answer that anonymously too.
"We will have that information within a few seconds," Bielefeld said.
It's the first time the district has had this kind of 24/7 technology, and reports are already coming in.
"If teachers and students don't feel safe, then learning is not gonna happen," said Superintendent Saul Hinojosa.
Hinojosa says its a safety tool he recommends for all school districts.
Students can be comfortable with the staff around them and still be hesitant to come forward with some of this information, he says, which is what makes the anonymity so crucial.
Teresa Reuter is the Senior Vice President of Customer Success for STOPit Solutions.
She says the company saw an increase in demand from Texas districts after David's Law was passed, but now, much of the focus has turned to school security threats.
"Especially in the smaller communities, it's important to give that anonymous and technological way for students to reach out in the way that they're comfortable doing it," Reuter said.
She says it's also beneficial for districts struggling with resources.
"This is a way that you can touch every single student at any given time. It doesn't rely on one guidance counselor, or one resource officer to be able to feel, hear or see what's going on," Reuter explained.
An interesting trend Reuter notes is more students submit reports for each other, rather for themselves. For example, if someone is bullying their friend, or they notice a student who may need mental health support.
Reuter says more schools are reaching out about this app since the shooting in Uvalde.
It's now in more than 1500 schools spanning about 300 districts in Texas.
"They share so much in the social media world, that it's second nature for them to share that much when they're sending a report in and they're speaking to an administrator, because they feel like they're sharing it kind of in the same media space," Reuter said.
The program is still in it's early stages in Somerset ISD, but officials say they're confident it will increase safety.
"It allows us to have that open communication and take away some of that anxiety of turning that information over," Bielefeld said.
Other districts in Texas list STOPit Solutions on their websites too, such as Columbus ISD, Denton ISD, Navarro ISD, Waco ISD, Academy ISD, and Runge ISD.