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Humble ISD safety app utilized in its first year, stats show

June 16, 2018 GMT

Humble ISD’s iHelp app, which was launched in fall 2017, received over 3,600 tip submissions within its first year of implementation.

The app allows students, staff, family and other members of the Humble ISD community to anonymously submit tips about anything that may pose as a safety risk to themselves or others in the district — whether it’s an uncomfortable encounter with stranger, or alerting district officials to a student exhibiting unusual behavior.

The app submissions are monitored around the clock by campus administrators, counselors, or Humble ISD police to ensure that situations in which people may be experiencing distress are addressed appropriately and promptly.

Even though school is out for the summer, iHelp tips continue to be submitted, explained Matt Smith, coordinator of counseling and behavioral services for Humble ISD.

“There were still some submissions, even yesterday, and those are still being responded to,” Smith said during an Humble ISD board meeting on Thursday, June 14. “But, students are using the app and we found that very encouraging.”

Because of the iHelp app, Humble ISD was able to serve 184 elementary age students and 578 secondary students who were in behavioral distress during the school year.

According to Lieutenant Erica Journet with the Humble ISD Police, only 8 percent of the tips ended up requiring police services. The school district’s police dispatchers are trained through a 24-hour crisis communication course to effectively handle behavioral distress issues and work with appropriate district staff to intervene on behalf of the individuals involved.

“If we have any type of bullying or harassing tips, our dispatcher’s responsible for emailing that principal and that counselor, who pull that kid the next day and begin to start trying to do some type of intervention,” Journet said.

Bullying and harassment accounted for a majority of the iHelp tips, with 515 submissions.

However there were also:

270 depression tips

213 drug or alcohol-related

137 assault tips

121 suicide threats

111 self-harm

110 bogus or prank submissions

106 sexual misconduct tips

100 planned attack submissions

76 fighting-related

Other submissions included tips about gangs, sexting, theft, weapons, eating disorders and suicide.

Smith said suicide outcries were up 60 percent in 2017-18 from where they were at the previous school year. However, he believes this is actually an indication that the iHelp app is working.

“We were at 101 last year and we’ve rose this year by 60 percent to 160,” Smith said. “I think that’s a direct result of having iHelp because we’ve been able to have students let us know what was happening either to themselves or to a friend or classmate and we’ve been able to intervene quickly.”

According to Smith, Humble ISD has never lost a student to suicide after receiving support through counseling.

“So, even though we see a rise (in suicide outcries,) these are students who we were able to intervene with in order to give support and additional resources,” Smith said.

Moving into next school year, Smith said empathy training, which is done for all school counselors, will be provided to staff on the district’s 12 campuses most impacted by Hurricane Harvey. When coping with a traumatic experience, Smith said the school district will need to amplify the resources available to students should the need arise.

“As we look at school crisis an natural disasters, or manmade disasters, the thought is if a campus or community was impacted on a broad scale like that, the counseling staff would not have the capacity to serve the mental health needs of a large-scale event,” Smith said.

Inspired by the tremendous community support Humble ISD witnessed through community partnerships during Harvey, the district plans on implementing an initiative called the Community Counseling Response Team.

“This initiative would work to bring about a partnership with local clergy, or faith-based communities — people of all faiths — who have training in responding to individuals who are in distress, but they also have that faith — that connection to hopefulness, whatever that faith is, the individuals in distress or going through a traumatic event need to be connected to that hope,” Smith said. “Our plan is to continue this initiative by gathering those people and to provide training for them and then to be able to partner with school safety committee so that we can also hold drills for that group to come respond to students, to classrooms and to staff members in an event — that hopefully will never happen — in order to be better prepared.”