Shawnee Mission School District introduces new app to report bullying, threats

SHAWNEE, Kan. -- On average, 1 in 3 school-aged children will be the victim of bullying. Six in 10 will witness it.

“Today with social media, bullying can happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. So kids just don`t get a break from it,” said Tim DeWeese, director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

The Shawnee Mission School District has a new tool they hope will help put a stop to  it.

“Every device that a student has, that`s a district-provided device, has an icon on the dock which allows them to click that, go to a website and report instances of bullying. But also if there`s some kind of a threat that they are aware of, or if there's a concern that they have about a student that might perhaps do harm to themselves they can report all of those things,” Shawnee Mission's Chief Communications Officer David Smith said. 

The system is called Sprigeo.

“We would just touch it, and it would open up right to the Sprigeo website,” Smith said.

Sprigeo replaces an internal reporting system that the district had been using for several years. The new platform is cleaner and more user friendly.

“The bottom line is we want to know. We will use that information to make decisions in order to make our kids and our staff safe. This gives them a way to share that information with us,” Smith said.

Johnson County mental health experts say bullying has a lasting impact on a students mental health.

“It absolutely has a huge impact on youth today, and I think that's one of the reasons that we see an increase in mental health conditions as well as an increase in suicide among youth,” DeWeese said.

Last year, through November 2017, eight Johnson County teens under 19 took their own lives. Increasing access to this type of technology could help save lives.

“These apps that are used are absolutely going to make a difference because it makes it easier for kids to reach out for help. It makes it easier for other kids to notify caring adults about what's going on,” DeWeese said.

Several other school districts in the metro use Sprigeo for reporting. Liberty school safety officials who say they've been using it for four years and average 150 tips per month through the system. About 1/3 of those are what the district calls "actionable" tips that warrant some type of investigation.

District officials say they're confident the tips that have come in through this reporting system have helped save lives.

Shawnee Mission said since school started about a week ago, they’ve gotten several tips already and will investigate those as they come in.