Hawkins schools may implement system to make anonymous tips

Jeff Bobo • Mar 13, 2018 at 11:31 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County students and their parents may soon have access to a cell phone app that will allow them to make anonymous tips about inappropriate or illegal behavior at school.

On Thursday, the Hawkins County Board of Education recommended including funding to pay for the "STOPit K12 Solution," which is being offered through the district's liability insurance provider, Tennessee Risk Management.

Director of Schools Steve Starnes told the BOE Thursday he has been in negotiations to make STOPit available to all students in the district for about 50 cents per student, or roughly $3,300 annually.

How does STOPit work?

Anonymous reports would be forwarded to the student's SRO and/or a designated administrator.

STOPit is already being used in 80 other Tennessee school systems.

For younger students who don't have phones it would be available to parents. The app is free to download.

What types of behavior can students or parents report?

Among the most commonly reported issues are bullying, cyber-bullying, inappropriate student/teacher relationships, violence/threats, hazing, weapons possession, drug and alcohol use or possession, and intolerance or discrimination.

"Students can report any variety of things, and they're able to do that with an app on their phone," Starnes told the BOE. "It's anonymous, and there is a chat feature that the school administrator or SRO can chat back and forth with that person. It also keeps a record of all reports.

If STOPit is approved in the final 2018-19 school budget, Hawkins County schools would pay Tennessee Risk Management for the service.

What are the advantages for the school system?

STOPit advertises itself as a powerful deterrent that causes students to think twice before making a bad decision. Fewer disciplinary incidents translates into more time focused on academics.

From the standpoint of insurance liability, STOPit says its a fast and powerful solution to report inappropriate behaviors, deter unethical or illegal activity, and mitigate financial and reputational risks to schools.

The STOPit website states, “You will have the ability to address issues early on, before they spiral out of control.”

What about the potential for false reports?

Board of Education Chairman Bob Larkins expressed concern about false reports, but Starnes noted there is a safeguard against misuse of the service.

If somebody starts misusing the system, they can be blocked to avoid "wild goose chases and false rumors," he said.

If approved, STOPit will be available at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.

Hawkins County Board of Education vice chair Debbie Shedden and chairman Bob Larkins listen as Director of Schools Steve Starnes describes a proposal for the anonymous tipster cell phone ap "STOPit". The BOE agreed to include $3,300 in the proposed 2018-19 budget for the system.

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