WACO, TX — As students get settled into their first semester back at school, bullying is something that students of all ages continue to struggle with, but Waco ISD is working on combating that through an app.
Throughout the pandemic, students and staff were mostly focused on heading back to the classroom and getting back to normal life.
"The bully thing really didn’t pop up as much because I think that students were just happy to be around each other,” Suzanne Hamilton, Executive Director for Student Services with Waco ISD, said.
But now that students are once again in person that has changed.
"Now kids are back together and adults are back together and it is difficult for us to figure out how to interact with each other,” Hamilton said.
The school district is working towards combating bullying and other stressors for students through a new app called Stop It.
"The Stop It app is designed to allow anonymous reporting whether it is bullying or it could just be tips, it could just be things that are going on,” Hamilton explained.
The app’s anonymous feature is meant to allow students to come forward about something that may be bothering them.
The app includes messaging features where they can be provided resources and counselor/administrative help.
“Sometimes we don’t see it, we don’t realize it, we don’t know that that is what is going on and this helps bring it to our attention,” Hamilton said.
The online system also helps with students struggling with their mental health and may have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, in hopes that it will allow students to be more open and feel comfortable.
“It is just important to slow down and ask kids how are you doing and opening up conversations to talk about feelings,” Katie Chadwell, a Child and Adolescent Therapist, said.
And with increase cases of depression and anxiety in teens, students feeling like they have someone to talk to is key according to health professionals.
“It doesn’t matter how strong you think you might be or how many hard things you have been through before, those feelings don’t go away unless you get them out somehow,” Chadwell explained.
Just after just a few days of the launch of the app, administrators have already seen students utilizing the app to report bullying or things that they are struggling with.
“We are here to care for them and to listen to them and we are going to take everything seriously and we are going to investigate to get to the bottom of what is going on," Hamilton said.