School Climate & Safety

Schools Using Smart Phone Technology Against Sex Assaults

By The Associated Press — May 22, 2017 4 min read

The same technology that keeps kids glued to their smart phones is being used by some schools as protection against sexual assaults. Using apps, victims and bystanders can alert school officials, police, or parents to trouble. While the systems can be used by kids pranking each other, app developers and school officials say most claims end up being credible. Reporting happens as events unfold and administrators can respond immediately.

The real challenge is money. Not all schools can afford the apps, some of which base their cost on the number of users or size of a student population. However, school insurance companies increasingly are picking up the tab, seeing the apps as a tool to mitigate risk.

Experts also warn that these apps should never be considered the sole way for a school to address the issue of student sexual assault.

Here are a few of them:

Stopit: New Jersey-based creator Todd Schobel launched this app in 2013. His inspiration was Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old who committed suicide after posting a video on YouTube in which she held up flashcards describing how her topless image ended up on the Internet, triggering a relentless barrage of bullying. The app—championed by Amanda’s mom—allows victims and bystanders to report anonymously to administrators, teachers, and virtually anyone the school deems appropriate. There are no parental controls. Users can send either a single text or have a two-way chat, and can attach pictures, screenshots, and video. The person who receives the alert can forward the information to law enforcement or suicide response teams, depending on the risk. The app stores all evidence and notes regarding incidents in a secure cloud-based server so school administrators can collect and analyze it over time.

Number of users: More than 2.5 million in K-12, according to the company.

What it costs: Schools pay $1 to $5 per head for the app, depending on the size of the student body. Some school insurers also have begun paying for the software for their clients’ use because they see it as a way to mitigate risk.

Available for download: Apple’s App Store or Google Play.

Anonymous Alerts: The name pretty much says it. Students can overcome the social pressures associated with “ratting out” peers by sending in anonymous tips. This app has dropdown menus, asking users what type of school they attend and where the incident took place, where it be a bus, hallway, or gym. Students can either send school administrators a single text or have back-and-forth conversations. They also can attach pictures, social media screenshots, or video. The president of the company, Gregory Bender, created his first emergency messaging system after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The computer software for his latest app—launched in 2013 to address all kinds of bullying—also collects alerts from students over time so schools can monitor trends.

Number of users: Around 5 million in K-12 schools, according to the company. It is available only to participating schools with a license.

What it costs: 50 cents to $2 per head.

Available for download: Apple’s App Store or Google Play and Chromebook Store.

Circle of 6: Created by sexual assault survivors, this one was born out of the White House’s “Apps Against Abuse” challenge in 2011. Though the company Tech 4 Good initially developed the app for colleges, it now has been customized for use by younger students. After downloading the app, students pick six trusted friends to join a “circle.” If they are in a precarious situation, users click an icon that sends a prewritten text message telling their friends they may need help and what kind. The app also includes informative links about sexual abuse and national hot lines. Prince William County Public Schools, the second-largest school district in Virginia with some 90,000 students, signed up its K-12 schools in 2016. The district says it doesn’t know how many students have downloaded the app, but developers say it’s the first grade school in the U.S. to sign on. Circle of 6 was customized and designed to provide an extra layer of protection for younger kids, with parental permission required for those under 13 to download the app.

Number of users: 350,000 (mostly colleges)

What it costs: $1 to $3 per head.

Available for download: Apple’s App Store or Google Play.

KnowBullying: This mobile app is for parents, aimed at helping initiate difficult conversations about bullying and harassment with kids. It also helps parents look out for different warning signs—not only to help identify if their kids may have been bullied, but also if they might be doing the bullying. It initially was created for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Number of users: Around 30,000

What it costs: Free.

Available for download: Apple’s App Store or Google Play.

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools
Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

School Climate & Safety When Toxic Positivity Seeps Into Schools, Here's What Educators Can Do
Papering over legitimate, negative feelings with phrases like "look on the bright side" can be harmful for teachers and students.
6 min read
Image shows the Mr. Yuck emoji with his tongue out in response to bubbles of positive sayings all around him.
Gina Tomko/Education Week + Ingram Publishing/Getty
School Climate & Safety Opinion Teaching's 'New Normal'? There's Nothing Normal About the Constant Threat of Death
As the bizarre becomes ordinary, don't forget what's at stake for America's teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Justin Minkel.
4 min read
14Minkel IMG
Gremlin/E+
School Climate & Safety Letter to the Editor Invisibility to Inclusivity for LGBTQ Students
To the Editor:
I read with interest “The Essential Traits of a Positive School Climate” (Special Report: “Getting School Climate Right: A Guide for Principals,” Oct. 14, 2020). The EdWeek Research Center survey of principals and teachers provides interesting insight as to why there are still school climate issues for LGBTQ students.
1 min read
School Climate & Safety As Election 2020 Grinds On, Young Voters Stay Hooked
In states like Georgia, the push to empower the youth vote comes to fruition at a time when “every vote counts” is more than just a slogan.
6 min read
Young people celebrate the presidential election results in Atlanta. Early data on the 2020 turnout show a spike in youth voting, with Georgia, which faces a pair of senatorial runoffs, an epicenter of that trend.
Young people celebrate the presidential election results in Atlanta. Early data on the 2020 turnout show a spike in youth voting, with Georgia, which faces a pair of senatorial runoffs, an epicenter of that trend.
Brynn Anderson/AP