It was the first – and only – report administrators at Ashley Elementary School have received through STOPit, Frisco ISD’s new online tool for reporting bullying and other school safety concerns.
The sender described thoughts of self harm and trouble she was having with other students. The nature of the comments were too serious to be taken lightly.
“Our day stopped at that point,” said school counselor Laurie Ortel, who was in a meeting with Principal Kim Frankson and Assistant Principal Jess Johnson when the message alert came through on their phones.
The report was a cry for help, not from a student at Ashley or another FISD school, but from a student in Waynesboro, Virginia, whose school district also uses STOPIt. Her school was already out on Winter Break.
“In that moment, she became ours,” Frankson said. “Our job is to serve kids, period. No matter what.”
Recognizing the severity of the situation, the educators sprang into action, instant messaging the student while simultaneously reaching out to school officials and law enforcement in Virginia, as well as District-level Frisco ISD staff.
“The administrators in Frisco were able to connect with the student even several states away and provide her guidance and support,” said Dr. Ryan Barber, director of student services in Waynesboro City Public Schools. “The administrators in Frisco also contacted almost every administrator in Waynesboro City Schools to ensure we were aware of the emergency situation.”
During the course of the STOPit conversation, the student acknowledged she was home alone and had swallowed pills.
“We were just desperate to get her help,” Ortel said.
They were able to reach police who immediately sent help to the girl’s home and followed up a short time later letting them know she would be okay.
“There were tears of relief and it was like the biggest weight was lifted off of us,” Ortel said.
Assistant Principal Jess Johnson, who was communicating directly with the student, said the group poured all their energy into ensuring a positive outcome.
“Afterwards, it felt like I had just run a marathon,” she said.
Frisco ISD administrators and security staff have responded to and investigated more than 1,500 STOPit reports Districtwide from students and parents this school year, with an average of five reports submitted per day. The nature of the reports varies widely, with conflict, bullying and school ethics code violations among the most common reports.
Almost two months later, the Ashley administrators still think about the student in Virginia and wonder how she’s doing. They long to give her a hug and tell her, once again, how much they care.
Even though the student connected with educators in another school district, she found the right group of people to help.
“Without the quick action of the administrators in Frisco, our student would not received the immediate mental health evaluation and treatment she required,” Dr. Barber said. “I am certain the outcome would have been different if it hadn't been for the STOPit app and the administrators in Frisco. Our school division remains tremendously thankful for everyone who intervened on behalf of our student in crisis."