By DAN FOX
The Skagway School Board has approved the pursuit of a new anti-bullying program called STOPit.
STOPit is an app for smartphones, through which students can anonymously send messages, screenshots and photos, which will go directly to Superintendent Dr. Josh Coughran. From there, Coughran will be able to investigate the reports and work with teachers and students on issues that arise.
“I view it as an additional tool for students to be able to report any incidents of violence, abuse, bullying,” Coughran said. “I think sometimes it’s tricky in a small town to be able to confront some of that, I think there may be some resistance to the face-to-face communication, so this would provide perhaps an avenue for students or adults that wanted to report something without necessarily having that face-to-face interaction.”
The app can be downloaded from the Google Play and Apple App stores, and a Skagway School-specific code can be entered to join the network.
Coughran said he wants to look into exactly how far to distribute the code, but that everything he’s seen on the topic says to make that code public.
“I think the idea is to be able to be open source and as least-restrictive as possible,” Coughran said.
The school’s insurance company was actually what brought the topic forward, according to Coughran. Some school districts in the country have been sued because they failed to properly investigate bullying or did not have an anti-bullying program in place.
“I think the intent here is just to be open and honest and to provide a resource for kids,” Coughran said.
Skagway’s school already has a structure in place to deal with bullying, and Coughran said he thinks the teachers do a good job of handling those kinds of behaviors when they crop up.
“I think that anytime you’ve got adolescents with brains that are not fully developed in a system, I think that [bullying] is something you’re going to have to deal with,” Coughran said.
The prospect of fake or false reports being submitted through the app came up during the board’s Nov. 28 meeting.
Board Member Jaime Bricker said false reports were a concern of hers regarding the app, and that she had been concerned about students using STOPit to pretend to be victims to pick on their classmates.
“I would just want to reiterate that there’s still a place in the school and with their teachers and the people that they trust to talk to, and that this isn’t the only way that they can report something,” Bricker said.