BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A new anonymous reporting app for Fort Madison Community School district residents will go live on Nov. 20.
Fort Madison High School Assistant Principal Patrick Lamb made a presentation to about 12 people Tuesday night at the Fort Madison Middle School.
Another presentation will take place at the Fort Madison High School tonight ( Wednesday Nov. 8) beginning at 6 p.m.
Lamb said the reporting app is a valuable tool for students, parents, and anyone else in the district who would like to have district staff aware of threats, disturbing behavior, concerning behavior. He said said most of those issues don’t get reported to the school, but they do typically get bullying complaints.
“One of the things I like most about this system is that you are totally anonymous unless you indicate that you want your information known. It is entirely anonymous.
We will have administrators, a threat assessment team, counselors, police – all those individuals have been folded into this process,” Lamb said.
He said the system is user-friendly and responsive. People using the system to report issues from threatening behavior, adult abuse, planned parties, bullying, sexual abuse, and any other issues, will get a response and an access code. The information then goes to Lamb and/or Superintendent Erin Slater. After examining the information, the complaints can then be handled by them or by sending to specific school administration for followup or response.
He said the most common reporting time is around 9 p.m. and our response if it is after school hours, is that we will investigate but if they think it’s an emergency they should call 9-1-1.
Some of the most common problems with students reporting is being a tattle-tail, being the only one that knows so identification is possible, it may not be that big of a deal, don’t want to get friends in trouble with the law and others.
Lamb said not all reports will be sent to the local law enforcement if it’s not immediately necessary. He said it would be the school’s intention to not notify police unless the issue requires that type of initial reaction.
He said the system is a two-way response and those who report will have a way to continue to have access to the report.
“When somebody reports a tip, they do get a receipt from us,” Lamb said. “They are also given an access code so they can go back into the original complaint and amend it, so to speak. So if they want to add a screenshot, or photo or video they can do that. They will have an open dialogue with the system. Without pulling the student in we have prompts that we can use that will allow the reporting person to have access to amend the complaint.”
The district has created a threat assessment team consisting of more than 20 individuals and will be pairing with community agencies when the law permits. Social workers, law enforcement, mental health, school board, and others make up the widespread team reacting to the system on a regular basis.
“Obviously we have to maintain that anonymity. But one of the real nice things is that it will allow tracking of addresses, key words, students who are being identified. That information is stored so as long as we subscribe to this app and system, we will be able to track those kinds of reports.
The program, which costs the district about $2,200 per year, was first pitched to the district at a National School Safety Conference that was attended by Slater, Lamb, FMMS Middle School Assistant Principal Brent Zirkel, and a school resource officer.
“We learned about this at the NSSC in July. We decided in December that we wanted to implement it. On Oct. 16 we informed the board of our intention to use the system, and community meetings are tonight and tomorrow,” Lamb said.
“Next week we have assemblies and then on the 20th we will begin receiving reports and acting on them.
Residents can get the app from the Google Play or the AppStore or they can access the system at www.p3campus.com.
School assemblies are scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 15 at the Fort Madison Middle School and on Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Fort Madison High School. The district will not be presenting to the elementary schools, but parents and family members do have access to the site and the app.
“The idea being we’re going to empower students,” he said. “Right now we operate on the ‘see-something-say-something’ premise, but on a daily basis 60 to 70% of the things seen don’t get reported.”
He said many states mandate some kind of reporting system, but Iowa does not at this point require schools to have an anonymous reporting system.
One parent asked what would happen over the holidays and summer.
“They can continue to report but at times we wouldn’t be able to respond. If school officials aren’t available we prompt them to call 9-1-1, but we will be reviewing the reports,” Lamb said.
Slater said it’s a subscription-based program that can be evaluated for effectiveness on a year-by-year basis.