Speak up and speak out. That is the message Jonathon Olmeda hopes will catch on across the Donna Independent School District. The Donna High School junior says sometimes students hesitate to speak up at school when it relates to a matter of concern. He admits he has found himself in that situation.
“It’s tough to go to the office and blurt out everything you see,” Olmeda said. “Many times students don’t like to speak out because they’re concerned about who to talk to or afraid of asking for help. It’s a big problem.”
Olmeda hopes that will change with Anonymous Alerts, a mobile app and safety reporting system that DISD invested in this year as part of the district’s continuous efforts to maintain a safe environment.
The process is simple, secure and enables students, parents or community members to quickly report potential incidents such as abuse, bullying, cyberbullying, student depression, self-harm, drugs, gang-related issues, weapons on campus or unusual student behavior which may warrant immediate attention by school officials.
“At a time where concern over school security is at an all-time high, Donna ISD is implementing an anonymous communication medium to make it easier for students, parents and community members to report suspicious activity,” DISD Police Chief Daniel Walden said. “Anonymous Alerts is going to help us open the door for communication.”
The Anonymous Alerts system is set up where the individual reporting the incident can identify themselves or establish an anonymous 2-way communications with a school administrator. Choosing to be anonymous, means all messages submitted will remain completely confidential. The submitter will be asked to select a campus, type of incident, location and detailed description of the incident. A photo, screenshot or video related to the incident can also be attached to the report.
“Key administrators at each of our campuses have been assigned to monitor the incoming reports and put a plan together to resolve the concerns quickly,” Walden said. “The tips will be encrypted so that school officials can respond to the submitter without being able to identify the person if the individual chooses to be anonymous.”
Donna High School Principal Dr. Nancy Castillo believes the new system will empower students to come forward to help themselves and other students. The Anonymous Alerts will also be a useful tool for administrators to combat negative activity. “This new system is going to help our administrators be more strategic when it comes to resolving the issue at hand before it becomes a bigger problem,” Castillo said.
The Anonymous Alerts app is available for free to download from the Apple Store, Google Play store, and the Chrome store. It will be monitored between the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the school year. Any reports submitted outside of these hours or during holidays will be responded to during the following normally scheduled school day. This system is not intended for issues that require immediate assistance. For those type of emergencies, individuals should call 911.
Olmeda said he plans to download the app and use it should a situation arise. “I have family here at Donna High School. I have a little brother and a cousin, so to know that I can use this system to make sure that they’re okay and everybody else is okay is a big deal. I encourage all my classmates to use it too.”
Anyone wishing to submit a report can use the link found on the Donna ISD website or on their personal mobile device.