Noblesville 5th graders get app to report bullying, other issues

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — An app created for Noblesville Schools is encouraging students to speak up. The tool lets them report bullying, threats and attempted suicide.

In the wake of a shooting inside a middle school classroom in May, the Speak Up app, is a tool administrators are hoping will help students feel safe.

“We created an app and we rolled it out to all middle school and high school students,” said Laura Denis, Director of Student Services for Noblesville Schools.

In it’s first year, the app was available to students from 6th to 12th grades. Now, the district is making it available to students in 5th grade, too. Students access the app on their take-home iPads. They can click on a variety of issues to report about themselves or a friend in need.

“We have things from suicide ideation to anything that they students just think is misbehavior, so something that just doesn’t seem right. We tell them to trust their gut,” Denis said.

The reporting system isn’t completely anonymous. Administrators can follow-up with students if they have questions. Students can also submit pictures or videos that detail the concerning behavior. Schools leaders said many students feel more comfortable reporting possible threats or calls for help on an app, rather than in person.

“They don’t need to sign up to meet with somebody like a counselor or administrator to be able to help a friend or even get help themselves. That immediate access has been key for our students,” said Denis.

Last year, schools had close to 300 submissions for anything from threatening social media posts to reports of bullying. Students can also submit concerns like drug or alcohol use, inappropriate relationships, dating violence, suicidal thoughts, abuse, hazing, harassment weapons, or eating disorders.

“It is available 24/7 and so they are very cognizant to make sure they are always checking their email and making sure that somebody is aware of what’s going on on the app,” said Denis.

Next week is the start of the school year for Noblesville schools, including Noblesville West Middle School. After the shooting inside a science classroom in May, teachers and school leaders are hoping the app is just one more tool to make students feel safe.

“All of our safety enhancements are geared towards obviously helping students, making sure they’re first and foremost safe, but that families and students feel as though they are safe and can come back,” Denis said. “This, plus all of our counseling that will be in place, our therapy dogs, everything that will be in place hopefully will make them feel at home and able to come back.”

The app is only available to students through their take home iPads. Next year, the district may look to expand the tool to 4th graders.