Students in Anne Arundel County, Md., schools can now use a unique smartphone app to report bullying or other problems to police.
The Anne Arundel County Police Department released the free AACo PD Speak Out app in fall 2012. The School Resource Unit designed the app to provide students with a way to communicate in a secure, private fashion. Students can walk into the office of a school resource officer (SRO) or use a phone tip line to report a problem, but police wanted to ensure students had another option to encourage communication.
"We are trying to put more tools in kids’ hands in an environment they are used to working with," explains Lt. Doyle Batten, school safety section commander for the department. "We wanted to give kids as much anonymity as possible to let us know what is going on."
The county’s 125 schools serve approximately 78,000 students. SROs are present in all 12 of the county’s high schools and are authorized for 11 of the county’s 19 middle schools.
The app is available through the Internet at http://aacopdspeakout.myapp.name or through the Google Playstore for Android products or via iTunes for iPhone users. Although the app is designed for public school students in the county, a parent or a private school student can use it as well. Police forward the email message content to where it needs to go, such as a specific school or SRO.
"Through all of our research, we can’t find any other police SRO agency that has tried this," Batten says. "We are interested in seeing what direction this takes. We don’t know how it might morph over time. We definitely see it as an avenue for identifying bullying and gang activity."
There have been several successful uses of the app thus far, according to Batten, involving students in emotional distress and bullying.
"None of these were major incidents, which is exactly how we hoped it would go—intervention at an early level," Batten says. "Information is the key to prevention."
For more information, contact Lt. Doyle Batten at email@example.com, (410) 222-0040.