New 'anonymous alert' app aims to make Lenox students feel safer

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LENOX — The school district has unveiled a free "anonymous alert" app to report potential inappropriate situations or bullying incidents.

The app can be used to notify officials if students "see something that looks inappropriate, if they feel like they're being bullied, if they see a weapon in their home or see something that makes them uncomfortable," said Lenox schools Superintendent Kimberly Merrick.

"They can pull up this app and send a text or an email to an administrator in the district immediately," she told School Committee members this week. Students would get a response within 24 hours, "unless it's an absolute emergency, which would go to the police or the Fire Department and they can respond in unison with the school district."

The app is available to students at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School as well as fourth- and fifth-graders at Morris Elementary School. It also can be used by parents and staff.

The goal is "to make students feel safer in the schools, and certainly if they feel like they're being bullied or harassed or picked on by another student, we will have to investigate," Merrick said.

The introduction of the app is in response to "alleged bullying articles in the press earlier this year to show that we are doing things to address the issues that may exist; it's a very simple way to do that." She stressed that there is nothing specifically "concerning or alarming" that prompted the initiative.

In a letter to parents, staff and the school community, the superintendent cited media coverage last September of alleged incidents of "bullying" within the schools. In response, the district is pursuing the "See Something, Say Something" campaign sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to promote school safety.

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"Lenox's purpose in joining this campaign is multifaceted although school safety, students' mental health, anxiety and, of course, bullying are at the forefront," Merrick wrote. "Students in grades 4-12 will learn about the initiative in various classes depending on their grade and developmental levels. Most importantly, students at both Lenox schools will continue to practice acts of kindness, how to be a good friend and good character."

According to her letter, the new state-of-the-art app allows students, other school personnel and parents to maintain their confidentiality while calling attention to bullying, safety concerns, student depression, drug and alcohol use and other situations that might warrant immediate attention by school officials.

Although all messages are anonymous, students can choose to include their name if they wish.

Coming soon, banners and posters at the schools will remind students that "if they see something that doesn't look right, like a friend being bullied, please send an anonymous alert, notify an administrator or tell a friend," Merrick told the School Committee.

The simple-to-use app can be downloaded from the Apple Store, Google Play store for Android and the Google Chrome store. To load it from home, directions are available at lenoxps.org under "Safe Schools" in the "Family & Community" drawdown menu. More information also is available at anonymousalerts.com.

It can be accessed via a smartphone, a laptop, tablet or a computer, including devices provided at the school buildings. Teachers and administrators will have the app and will be trained on its use.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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