Vigo County Schools unveil new tools to encourage communication and school safety

At a press conference on Tuesday, leaders unveiled the start of two new programs.

Posted: Oct 23, 2018 3:33 PM
Updated: Oct 23, 2018 5:41 PM

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - After the first round of community meetings, leaders of Vigo County Schools are finding out what's really on the minds of parents.

"We find school safety an issue, we're hearing that already," said Superintendent Robert Haworth, "We're hearing communication is an issue and we're hearing technology is an issue."

At a press conference on Tuesday, leaders unveiled the start of two new programs. One of them is the Junior Crimestoppers program, which is a collaboration between the school corporation and the Vigo County Sheriff's Office.

"We're really turning the old days of the bully box into an electronic mechanism now," said Sheriff Greg Ewing.

Students and parents can report issues through P3 Campus, which is compatible with computers and mobile devices. 

Through the service, a person can anonymously report issues such as bullying, suicide, alcohol, fighting, and even sexual assault. 

The anonymous tip line, leaders say, was also part of a recommendation in a state school safety report by Governor Eric Holcomb.

"The governor, in his report, wanted this tipline," said Ewing, "and so I don't know where that process is with the state, but we can't wait, and I think that that just demonstrates our efforts to make sure we have a safe environment not only for the students but also for the staff."

"We're opening up avenues for students to have a conversation, or a discussion or to share something that they feel is very meaningful," said Student Services Director Dr. Tom Balitewicz.

The Vigo County Sheriff's Office already has a Crimestoppers program, which is used throughout the community as an anonymous tip line for crimes. While the format of Junior Crimestoppers is similar, leaders say the tipline is more for issues that could impact school safety or a student's mental health.

To report a tip on P3, the student or parent will be asked a series of detailed questions including a description of the incident, who was involved and even the social media handles of the person being accused or at risk. There's also a section where a person can attach video or photo evidence.

Once a tip is submitted, it filters through to administrators within the Vigo County School Corporation and the child's school, as well as the sheriff's office to follow up on the report.

"This allows students to categorize things," said Balitewicz, "and I think whenever you can categorize something, you're boiling it down to what the basics of the issue are, which will help us as an investigator, or somebody looking into an issue, to come to our conclusions a lot quicker."

P3 Campus will officially be used in Vigo County Schools on November 1. 

As part of another tool, the school corporation is launching the School Messenger program, a text feature for parents. 

Leaders recently sent home letters to parents notifying them of the new feature. Using 150 characters or less, the texts will serve as a way for parents to receive alerts regarding general information or as a mean of communication during an emergency within the school corporation.

When students fill out their emergency contact cards during the school year, cell phone numbers from the cards are entered into VCSC's Skyward System. 

In order to opt in for the texting feature, your number must be registered within Skyward. 

To opt in now, you can text Y to 67587. 

School Messenger officially launches for Vigo County Schools on November 1. Parents will also receive a text that day to opt in as well.

Leaders say the text feature is a way to increase transparency and communication between the school corporation and parents, but in order for it to be successful, participation is needed.

"The bottom line, in everything we do, is getting the word out, in which we have such good coverage," said School Board President Jackie Lower, "but then getting the parents to follow through with that and get on the program, and that's the key. That's the key to the success of it and to the security and safety concerns of kids and parents, but they have got to follow through."

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