The Creston Community School District utilized Rachel’s Challenge last month as a way to educate students, staff and community members on anti-bullying and kindness, but they haven’t stopped there.
As a part of their ongoing campaign for student safety, Creston Middle School Principal Lesa Downing presented her plan to the school board on Feb. 20.
“We talked about the difference in the percentage of students who think they’re not at risk versus the percentage of students teachers think are not at risk,” she explained. “We need to do a better job of just thinking about and looking at mental health signs for a kid that might not feel safe.”
Before Downing took over, only 17% of middle school students said they always feel emotionally safe at the school. That number jumped to 60% in their December survey, but Downing said they are shooting for 85%.
“They said that the hallway and the gym and the bus are places they don’t feel safe, so we are starting this week with our hall monitors,” she told the board. “Eighth grade students are going to be hall monitors and they have a little lanyard and I ordered vests.”
Staff members reviewed expectations around the boundaries of success with the hall monitors prior to them starting. “They’re going to pick up trash, help kids with their locker,” Downing said. “That’s just part of our culture that we’re working on.”
A grant available through Green Hills AEA has allowed the school to utilize an app, STOPit, which uses anonymous reporting technology to safeguard students, employees and citizens. The app provides services to more than 8,000 districts.
“It allows us to have another resource available for our children to address some of the things they may not feel comfortable addressing with an adult in our school system, in our community or amongst our families,” Creston Superintendent Deron Stender explained. “It’s a new program, but several districts do use it.”
Once officially rolled out to students, the app will be monitored 24/7 by STOPit employees manage and immediately escalate life-threatening concerns and incidents. During the school day, data will go to the school.
The reporting system allows individuals to anonymously report safety, misconduct or compliance concerns to help others or connect with a crisis counselor from the crisis text line to help themselves. The crisis text line is integrated into the app and website for fast, easy chat access to more than 27,000 trained mental health counselors.
Stender said though he often hears the school isn’t doing enough, he would argue they do more than most districts.
“We have five counselors on staff in our district. Now, is that going to stop bullying, harassment, kids misbehaving? No. We do need our parents to support us,” he said. “We do work hard at this every day. Every counselor, every staff person that we have comes to the building wanting to make a difference in the lives of our children.”