Anchorage School District unveils new tool it hopes will keep students safer

A new app allows Anchorage students to report concerns anonymously
Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 4:47 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage students have a new way to report their concerns anonymously.

An app called STOPit is now available to download on phones, giving students a chance to text their concerns and get help for themselves or someone else.

Anchorage School District’s Director of Security Ashley Lally said students can report a range of issues, including school threats, abuse, or mental health concerns. Nationally, she said, the most common reports are those regarding suicidal ideations and self-harm.

“I think with an app like this, there’s a lot of conversation around violence and trying to stop bad things from happening in the school, which is definitely a critical piece of this,” said Lally. “But really, it’s a mental health tool for us to just have another avenue to reach our students with.”

During school hours the reports are sent to school administrators — the principal or school counselor — who can evaluate the situation and respond.

“The key here is that the administration can communicate with the person that submitted the report, that person stays anonymous,” Lally said. “So it gives administration an opportunity to see if that student might be comfortable coming in to speak in-person at a different time, or just trying and get more information from them about their friend or whatever the situation is.”

After hours, the messages are monitored by the company, which Lally said can contact police if it is needed.

“They will contact APD dispatch directly if there is an ultimate life or safety issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. Other than that, they essentially compile the reports, prioritize them, and then send them to the administrators the next morning.”

The district is spending $55,000 per year for the program and has a one-year contract with the company. The fee includes direct access to a 24-hour crisis line for app users.

Lally said downloading the app is voluntary, but the district is hoping students will put it on their phones and use it responsibly. It’s currently available for middle and high school students but Lally said it will be available for elementary students later this school year, after winter break.