New tool provides extra layer of safety and security for students in Putnam County

PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A new tool is providing an extra level of security and safety for students in Putnam County this school year, somewhere they are very comfortable with -- their cell phones.

The 'STOPit" app is being rolled out in all Putnam County Schools in time for the new school year which begins Aug. 22.

A new app is being rolled out in the school system. It is called "STOPit" and allows students to anonymously report anything of concern to school officials.

Students in all schools in Putnam County can download the app to their phone and can report any suspicious activity like violence or threats, bullying and drugs and alcohol.

"Any type of issue students are having, they are able to go into the app and make a report," said Danielle Gillispie, coordinator of Drug Prevention and Education. "I think we as adults have no idea what kids are dealing with truly. We only know what they are willing to share with us, and sometimes that's nothing. I think it's just another layer that we as parents can feel like our kids have a way to communicate if they don't feel OK talking to me or they don't feel OK talking to the folks in the office. They do feel more comfortable using their phones to communicate. So I do think that's a whole different layer added that kids can reach out for help."

The alert will then be sent directly to a school administrator or counselor, who then has the option to talk with the student through the app. They can respond to the student immediately, whether it be asking for more details or asking how they can help the student.

"We feel this is so important because using a phone is how kids communicate these days," Gillispie said. "It's very different communicating today than when I was in school. They feel very comfortable using their phones where they may not totally feel comfortable walking into the office and telling the administrator they are being bullied or that there is something going on. They may not even feel comfortable talking to their parents. But they all feel very comfortable using their phones and they know how to use it and it makes it so easy for them."

Students are able to remain anonymous when reporting. School administrators say this new tool will give them the option to be proactive rather than reactive.

Administrators say it will allow them to respond to issues instantly.

Each school will have a code that the students will use to access the app. Once they are in, it prompts them through several steps before sending an alert to the school administrators.

Gillispie said the idea to use the app in the school system came about after attending several conferences out of state.

"For the past couple of years, multiple states have talked about things they have for students to report incidents and get help," Gillispie said. "I've come back and said on a couple occasions, we need to do something to help our students. We need to give every kid a voice and allow them to feel comfortable in voicing what's going on with them. So this summer, we had several conversations and it led to us being able to get the STOPit app."

Gillispie says at each school, several different administrators and counselors are assigned to receive the information from students.

The new app is being launched just in time for the first day of school which is Thursday, Aug. 22.