WHEELING — Ohio County Schools wants to stop such incidents as fights, self-harm and drug abuse among students before they happen, and there’s an app for that.
Photo by Joselyn King Ohio County Schools Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones presides over a meeting Wednesday to discuss safety issues in the district. At right is board of education member David Croft.
WHEELING — Ohio County Schools wants to stop such incidents as fights, self-harm and drug abuse among students before they happen, and there’s an app for that. School officials announced Wednesday the STOPit Solutions app is coming to Ohio County Schools, and that it will provide students and their families a chance to anonymously report concerns about school and student safety matters.
Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones explained he and others learned about the app while attending the recent West Virginia School Safety Conference in Charleston.
“It is in the realm of reporting – if you think somebody might be wanting to hurt somebody or themselves, or if there is a fight coming,” he explained.
The app is already being used in other West Virginia counties, and is being funded through a grant from the Mountain State Educational Cooperative Services. As such, the service is free to Ohio County Schools, according to Jones.
The school district plans to roll out the app some time after Christmas break.
Nicole Shepherd, Behavior Specialist and Alternative Education Coordinator for Ohio County Schools, said the app likely will be downloaded onto students’ Chromebooks.
She described the app as “an anonymous reporting system.”
“If they (students) know of something, they can leave us an anonymous tip,” Shepherd said. “They can sign their name to it and tell us who they are, but they don’t have to when they submit it.”
The app contains a crisis text line that links to national suicide and crisis cutlines, she continued.
“It just puts the link on the app right there for them,” Shepherd said. “It is staffed 24/7 (hours a day), and 365 (days a year). So if they reach out at 2 a.m. with a crisis, someone is going to answer immediately and contact law enforcement if necessary – or counsel them if it is not.”
She noted the information reported can be set up to go directly to administration or to school security officers. The company answers the text within 15 seconds, reviews it, and decides where to send it.”
The report might be that there is a fight planned at school, and school officials then can plan to intervene and stop an altercation.
“That’s awesome, in that we may hear someone wants to hurt someone or themselves and we can stop that, too,” Shepherd said.
Such information may prove handy as there have been a larger than usual number of fights recently at Wheeling Park High School, Jones reported. He said he and other school officials met last week with Ohio County Assistant Prosecutor Gail Kahle last week regarding the increase in fight incidents,
“We had a good meeting that covered a lot of things – especially how we can file charges on them (students involved in fights) if we need to and make it easier for them to prosecute,” Jones said. “We have a really good plan moving forward.”
He noted many of the incidents stem from delinquent juveniles being placed in Ohio County Schools, and most often being placed at the alternative school location.
Jones said the district is seeking more information about the background of these students – and whether they are violent – before deciding where they should be placed.