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School safety: there's an app for that

Posted at 6:13 PM, Feb 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-21 18:13:03-05

Heightened awareness about what can happen inside our schools is now pushing some districts in Northeast Ohio to add another layer of protection.

While some are calling for things like metal detectors and armed guards, more schools are turning to technology.

When it comes to safety in the classroom - there's an app for that.

For educators, it's a growing concern. How do you get teens that may see something suspicious in their school halls or on social media to speak up?

It's the old standby - crisis hotlines.

Most schools have one in place to give students a way to tip off administrators about threatening behavior, but districts are finding teens are less likely to use them. Nowadays very few of them talk on the phone.

"We have the hotline, and I think it was used once this year," said Superintendent of Buckeye Schools Kent Morgan. "We've had our share of situations that have threatened the potential safety of our students and staff."

Right now, the hope is what students frequently have in their hand may help keep them safe.

The Medina County district just rolled out the STOPit app to try and get ahead of trouble.

It allows users to report a dangerous situation in real time by immediately connecting students, staff and parents with school administrators.

"The STOPit app allows us to access, or at least attempt to access, more information, so we can get a better picture of what's happening," said Morgan.

Information that educators believe will now be offered up more freely because the process is completely anonymous.

"I think it's going to be good if kids are afraid to come forward,” said Ann Marie Snyder.

Right now, Snyder and her family are among 3,000 in the Buckeye district that have access to the STOPit app.

"I don't ever want to be the person to say it's not going to happen here," said Snyder.

And for that reason, Snyder told News 5 she plans to have it handy and encourage her daughter to use it.

"I think the app is going to be good, absolutely, but I also think we need to teach our kids to not be afraid to get help if they need it," said Snyder.

In just two months, 29 school districts in Ohio have signed up for STOPit, giving immediate threat reporting access to 43,000 students.

"Hopefully we're going to have the opportunity for everyone to have that tool in their hands," said Morgan.

Buckeye Schools joins Cuyahoga Heights and Lakewood in the push to make reporting potential problems as quickly and as easy as possible.

Buckeye Schools' insurance company is covering the cost associated with rolling out and maintaining the STOPit app.