Stratford Schools Turn To Technology With Anonymous Reporting App

Stratford Schools Turn To Technology With Anonymous Reporting App

STRATFORD. When Superintendent Uyi Osunde was principal of Windsor High School, he saw firsthand that the same mobile devices that students sometimes used to bully each other can also be a powerful tool to stop such behavior.

What the schools have done, Osunde said, is to release an app that Windsor has been using for four years that he says is effective in helping school authorities respond to incidents of bullying. Now Stratford schools have launched a similar app that allows students to report to school authorities without losing their anonymity.

“Kids are our eyes at school,” said Matthew Rivers, chief technology officer who helped develop the app for the district. "They have the pulse of what's going on in the classroom with their classmates and friends."

Rivers said officials hope the app, called Stopit, will help students help people and provide better ways to report concerns. In the past, she said, they had to contact the school administration or the school counselor to report an incident.

School officials say the app can help them break what they see as the "no whine" culture among youth and actively address issues like bullying or substance abuse. Rivers said teachers and other school officials have busy schedules, making it difficult to identify problem students.

The app is part of a series of security measures put in place by the school district. Other measures include hiring a new security director, training de-escalation specialists, and installing additional alarm systems in school buildings.

The school district launched the app last week and received one or two reports by Friday. Stopit is installed on Google Chromebook laptops that schools provide to middle and high school students, and students can also download the app on their phones or computers.

When students open the app, they select their school district and describe the incident before submitting anonymous feedback to the school official. This officer will then receive a warning. The app also allows school authorities to contact the student who filed the report. During this interaction, officials will give students a choice to reveal the names of those who need help or refer them to services offered at the school, Rivers said.

If the victim requests it, the app can also help them "get more information, allow that person to use the app, or just contact us so we can help them," Rivers said.

While officials say the app has not been launched due to national events such as the Uvalde school shooting earlier this year, Osunde said officials can use the app to report any "suspicions" of a possible reaction to shooting.

Osunde said the app is part of the district's ultimate goal of creating an environment where both students and teachers enjoy going to school and feel like the district is prioritizing their safety.

“There is still a lot to be done,” Osunde said. "But I do know that Stratford's public schools are safer today than they were a year ago."

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