Hoping to facilitate an environment where students feel safe to report something they see is wrong, La Joya Independent School District has brought in an anti-bullying and safety reporting app.
The LJISD has begun implementing the Anonymous Alerts mobile application for students this year. The app, which can be downloaded for free on Apple and Android devices, allows for anonymous reporting of bullying and school safety concerns.
“This is another tool that was required by the state so that we can give kids and the community an opportunity to report, anonymously, information that is of concern to them,” Gonzalez said. “We understand that there may be a lot of people who may be hesitant to come forward and report because number one, they don’t want to be identified, number two, they believe that they can provide information that they may be a witness to an incident where they may have to testify [in court], and they don’t want to do that.”
He also said it was beneficial for everybody because if something does happen, people will have the opportunity to report it quickly.
“It gives school personnel time to investigate, review or assess any reports that come to us that have to do with safety,” Gonzalez said. “People don’t have to worry about having to go to court or having to testify, and more importantly, be identified as the people who called in the concerns.”
The anonymous two-way communications system “empowers students to report bullying, weapons, drug/alcohol usage, potential campus threats and other safety concerns without fear of retribution by their peers,” according to the press release from the district.
“One of the most important strategies for school safety is involving the student community with anonymous reporting, and mobile apps are a comfortable platform for them to report an incident,” Superintendent Alda Benavides said. “In addition, the new technology provides our dedicated school officials with a two-way communications channel to confidentially engage with students.”
The state required some type of reporting system be implemented into school districts, and while the LJISD Campus Crime Stoppers have already had a presence, district leaders wanted to add a more instant tool.
“We understand that the majority of the kids all have phones,” Gonzalez said. “So we felt it was easier for them just to download the app and report it from their cell phones.”
Each campus has a designee who will receive the anonymous reports as they come in. Once reported, the student can continue communicating in the same conversation if they have more follow-up information.
“Some campuses have decided it’s going to be an assistant principal or a counselor,” Gonzalez said. “They’ll make a determination on who needs to investigate it.”
Students, parents and staff can download the app and gain access to the service by using an activation code that will be provided by the district. Additionally, on the LJISD website, there will be an Anonymous Alerts web button that people can access on their computer in order to send a web-based report.
The system will be monitored by campus designees on school days from 7 a.m. through 5 p.m. The press release from the district said submitters can provide reports that include photos, videos or screenshots that are relevant to the incident being reported.
The mobile app also includes a section students can access with links to informational websites and videos related to cyberbullying, social and emotional learning, self-harm prevention and mental health self-help content.
Gonzalez mentioned that when working with the company who created Anonymous Alerts, they designed the app based on the needs of LJISD. It can also be used in English and Spanish.
“The way we see it, anything that will help us identify concerns is always good for the district,” said Gonzalez. “At the end of the day, this is the most important thing we want to have: we want to have a good communicative relationship between the students and the administration and the parents and the administration.”
“If this can help us better the communication with the students and the parents, obviously are 100 percent supportive of it,” Gonzalez added.