Lexington Three using app designed to keep students safe

 

Students and teachers in Lexington School District Three have a powerful new tool in the fight for a safer, healthier learning environment – one that could have the ripple effect of a safer overall community.

For the past couple of months, students at Batesburg-Leesville High School have had access to a free smartphone and desktop app called STOPit that allows them to anonymously report unsafe conditions, including bullying and potential security hazards in and around school.

“STOPit is a simple app that allows for anonymous reporting by students to the administration of things of concern,” said Ralph Schmidt, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel and Administration. “It could be dangerous situations, or it could something as simple as a broken window or an open door. It can be utilized in a lot of ways.”

Founded in 2013, STOPit Solutions is a New York-based company originally created to combat cyberbullying in schools, to curb the epidemic of students using the Internet and social media to attack other students. The scope of the project has since expanded, according to the STOPit website, “to inspire speak-up cultures in not only the education space but also the workplace and public safety sectors.”

STOPit now boasts more than 3.5 million subscribers. Schools pay $2 to $5 per student for the monitored service, and students and teachers may download the STOPit app to their smartphones for free.

However, STOPit is not costing Lexington Three Schools anything. The South Carolina School Boards Insurance Trust, which provides the district’s insurance coverage, is paying for the service. “They made the offer to all of its members that they would provide STOPIt,” Mr. Schmidt said.

“Every student has the ability to put it on their cellphones, and we’ve expanded that and we’ve now put it on their Chromebooks,” Mr. Schmidt said. “So, now these students can make a referral in a number of ways.”

Students can submit written reports of suspicious activity, bullying or other concerns. They also may take photographs or videos and submit those to STOPit Solutions anonymously, too.

“It is designed for us to be able to have an anonymous reporting system for kids. If students do not feel comfortable in sharing something with a teacher or administrator, then they can report it through STOPit,” Mr. Schmidt added.

Once received, anonymous reports are vetted by trained operators on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. STOPit Solutions states that reports “are guaranteed to be addressed in under an hour, and most are addressed in under five minutes.”

“They review every report, and if there are things of a critical, urgent nature, then they will make phone calls,” Mr. Schmidt said. “I’m listed, as well as the Batesburg-Leesville Police Department.”

In this age of tragic school shootings, STOPit offers Batesburg-Leesville schools an added layer of potential protection. In many cases, students and others who may be contemplating school violence will telegraph their intentions on social media or in private conversations.

“If a student were to post something on Instagram at 7 o’clock and it’s reported at 8 o’clock, then we can have the police looking into it by 8:01,” Mr. Schmidt said.

STOPit also has proven effective in other school districts in alerting administrators and caregivers when a student may be contemplating suicide or experiencing physical abuse at home. “We can intervene with them much quicker, rather than have to wait until the next morning,” Mr. Schmidt added.

There are some safeguards in place to ensure that STOPit is not used by students to harass other students or otherwise disrupt school activities unnecessarily. “We take every report seriously, but we have to look at the facts of every situation,” Mr. Schmidt said.

The STOPit app, now that it has been piloted at the high school, soon will be replicated in other schools in Lexington Three, and officials hope it will be a 100 percent effective barrier to loss of life to students here.

For more information on the app and its security solutions for schools and businesses, visit www.stopitsolutions.com.

Story by Tony Baughman / Published December 5, 2019