The Tabernacle Board of Education discussed the possibility of implementing STOPit as an anonymous, online reporting tool — both are required by law in New Jersey — at its Dec. 7 meeting.
“The idea is to help out for other situations,” said Principal and Superintendent Shaun Banin. “Let’s say that someone saw somebody using something they shouldn’t in the bathroom, or whatever the case may be. They can report this with at least a little bit of anonymity behind it and the school can act accordingly.”
STOPit is an app that allows students to make anonymous HIB claims by using photo or video evidence. Students can also use STOPit as a 24/7 helpline when they are in crisis, like considering hurting themselves or others. All STOPit claims would be directed to the Tabernacle School District as well as the New Jersey State Police, which patrols the township.
Several board members raised concerns about potential abuse and security of the app.
“This is just ripe for abuse and to be used as a bullying tool,” said board member Brian Lepsis. “That comes across to me as very un-American, dangerous and strikes me as something that is maybe well intentioned, but I can see all sorts of bad consequences coming out of this.”
Banin said other districts he’s been in contact with that have used STOPIt have not seen any abuse with the app.
“I think in terms of the positive and putting our faith in our students that they’re going to use this in the right way,” Banin added. “Going back to the limited number of HIBs we’ve had, I think a lot of that shows that our students traditionally do not look at ways to say ‘So and so did this,’ or “So and so did that’ when it’s not accurate.”
A Cherry Hill High School East student made a false claim on STOPit in 2018 that put the school in lockdown. At Haddonfield Middle School, which also uses STOPit, no abuse has been reported.
If the board chooses to use the app, costs associated with it would be covered by the district’s Joint Insurance Fund.
During the 2019-’20 school year, the district had three incidents of HIB. There were not any cases involving violence or weapons, according to the district’s safety report.
The board also approved a proposal for a state grant that would fund school security projects, like upgrading cameras and security servers.
The School Security Grant would cover the cost of adding panic buttons that individuals could press to instantly call the police to the district’s two schools in case of an emergency.
The panic buttons are required by Alyssa’s Law, signed by Gov. Phil Murphy last February. The legislation is named after Alyssa Alhadeff, who was killed during the school shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, 2018.
“Based on our own analysis of best practices, there are things that we should be upgrading to make sure that we are not just compliant today,” Banin said. “But also, I think, making sure that our district is putting itself in the best position to ensure the safety and security of all those involved in our buildings.”