Katy ISD to implement enhanced anonymous reporting tool for 2019-20 school year

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Correction: This story was updated to reflect the correct annual cost to the district for SpeakUP 

Katy ISD is unveiling a new anonymous reporting tool that will replace the district’s existing Bullying Tip Line application.

Starting on the first day of classes, KISD students, teachers, staff and community members will be able to anonymously report bullying and potential criminal or violent activity at the district via SpeakUp, which will be an application and web form, said Ted Vierling, the KISD assistant superintendent for operations at the board of trustees’ July 29 work-study meeting.

In addition to better monitoring of these reports and data collection of these anonymous tips, SpeakUp will allow KISD staff to respond in real time to tips such as bullying, threats of violence, drug use, dating violence, weapons and mental health crisis, Vierling said.

With SpeakUp, a reporter can attach screenshots, videos and audio to help the district respond to a crisis before it happens, Vierling said. Additionally, SpeakUp will allow the district to communicate with anonymous reporters to obtain more information and let them know the district is responding to the tip.

“Research tells us that to to help keep your school safe, you need … information before it happens, rather than after it happens,” Vierling said. “We all know how to deal with situations when they do happen, but we want it before it happens to prevent a tragedy as a tragedy.”

Existing practices at the district to report these anonymous tips include:

  • Safety Net, which is a handwritten document that students can turn in;
  • Katy On the Go, the district’s phone application; and
  • anonymous email.

After SpeakUp is implemented, students will still be able to report bullying and other tips in a face-to-face conversation with a district staff member, Vierling said. The district will also continue to offer KatyConnect, a 24/7 crisis hotline to help students receive immediate help for mental health concerns.

“School safety has become a huge part of what we do as school teachers, administrators,” Vierling said. “And it’s the job of everyone. It’s no longer just chief of police and our police officers. Everybody’s got a piece of this.”

SpeakUp will have an annual cost of $13,700 for its first year due to one-time implementation fees and branding fees, Vierling said. Subsequent years will have an annual fee of about $12,500.

“I know it seems like a lot to a lot of folks, but when you’re talking about a program like this that can do as much good as it does, [$12,500] or even $13,000 is a good buy,” Vierling said.

How SpeakUp will work

According to Vierling’s presentation, here is how SpeakUp will work:

  • Users submit a tip via the SpeakUp phone application at Google Play or the Apple Store. A webform will also be available on all district websites and computers.
  • An anonymous reporter logs into the application by creating a unique code and password without any identifying credentials.
  • The anonymous reporter then chooses a district location where the issue is occurring, selects a concern from a drop-down list and provides any additional information that can help with an investigation.
  • Campus administration and a threat assessment team receive a notification when a tip is reported and respond accordingly.

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Jen Para
Jen joined Community Impact Newspaper in fall 2018 as the editor of the Katy edition. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Jen has written about business, politics and education since 2013. Prior to CI, Jen was the web producer at Houston Business Journal.
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