September 6, 2018
With the help of a smartphone app, Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School District students now have a way to report incidents and suspicions anonymously.
The app that was introduced to students last week is called STOPit, and students can use it to pass along information that can affect safety among students, such as a student thinking about suicide, a bullying issue, or a threat of school violence.
Superintendent Wayne Barker said he has seen the app used for a variety of concerns already, some of which the school can intervene.
“We want to make sure our students feel like they have a voice and an easy way to use their voice,” he said. “We have already seen it to be extremely useful and helpful in some situations.”
When someone reports something on the app, administrators are able to message that student back and have a two-way conversation while the student remains completely anonymous. This can help when it comes to getting the location, time and other details of a reported incident.
Activity within BHMSD on the app is also monitored 24 hours a day and seven days a week by STOPit staff, which Barker said is helpful. He said, for example, if a student reported a major act of school violence at 2:30 a.m., STOPit staff would call administration, as well as the Bluffton Police Department, at that moment.
Barker said the district looked into several options, including posting an email address that students can email anonymously. In the end, STOPit appeared to be the best option that students would actually use.
“It’s been really good for helping some students that quite honestly we would not have known about without the app,” he said. “We are pleased with what we found out.”
Steve Baker, Bluffton High School principal, said it wasn’t that he was skeptical of the app at first, but he wondered if it would really be utilized by students.
“I’ve talked to some kids about it, and they have enjoyed it,” he said. “I have not heard one complaint from a parent or student about it not being necessary because there’s really no downside to it.”
Baker also said that the app is helpful with building relationships with students as well, since it gives them a more approachable way to report something and connect with administration.
Students were shown how to use the app last week. The only issue so far is that some students have used the app to report what Barker called frivolous things, such as dress code violations. Issues such as dress code violations can be reported face to face in the office, he said.
“We always tried to teach our students that if you see something, say something,” Barker said. “This is just another way to do it.”