STOPit Solutions (Holmdel) is on a mission to keep students safe at school, one school district at a time, said CEO Parkhill Mays in a recent interview.
“We do that by developing engaging technology. In recent years we’ve added important emergency and crisis services leading to a more engaged customer experience. What that allows us to do is attract bigger districts whose staff are busier than ever, and who stay with us for longer periods of time,” he noted.
STOPit Solutions offers a two-way anonymous reporting tool called “STOPit.” Students can use the tool to report school safety issues, or to reach out for help if they or a peer are facing a personal crisis or experiencing situations such as bullying, mental health concerns, substance abuse or any other student safety issue. But there is more.
“Our crisis intervention center, honestly, is a hallmark of any new piece of business that we touch,” Mays continued. “We don’t sell stuff. It is not technology alone anymore. It’s a solution. It comes with our crisis center and 24/7 emergency monitoring. Our well-trained team places eyes on every incident that passes through our platform, and emergencies get escalated to someone who can help immediately, and it does not wait.”
The company was founded in 2012 by Todd Schobel. Mays joined shortly thereafter. “It didn’t take long for me to join the mission. I’m one of the early founders and members of management in the organization,” Mays told us. In 2017 Schobel moved to the board level and Mays took over the day-to-day running of the company.
In its early days, STOPit revolved around its technology: an app that helped stop bullying in schools. The company is particularly proud of its crisis center, which was added in 2018. Basically, when a student is distressed, he or she can reach out via the mobile app. The center then intervenes in emergencies. It doesn’t have to be something that happened during the school day. If it’s something that occurred overnight, perhaps personal issues, suicidal ideation or self-harm, “our crisis center intervenes immediately. They route the incident to someone who can help right away. They don’t wait for the next day.”
Mays continued, “Crisis intervention was a big step forward for us back in 2018. Today, it’s easily 50 percent of our solution. While our technology is great and has improved over the years, it’s the crisis center and the interventions that we make on a nightly basis that are most important. Any given night, we will escalate between five and eight emergencies to first responders or to local district-level resources that have been identified in advance. That’s really a distinguishing feature.”
Mays noted that, while bullying is still with us, and the app still deals with it, the solution has expanded to keep up with the times. During COVID, there was a lot of social isolation for students who often didn’t go to school for months at a time. As a result, many students are suffering from acute mental health issues that need to be dealt with. Serious mental health issues more than tripled between 2020 and 2021, Mays said. And mental health events that needed to be referred to emergency services doubled between 2020 and 2021.
The company, which is located at Bell Works, employs 28 people, and 21 of them are in New Jersey. Mays said that the company services customers all over the country, and has its largest presence in Texas and California, but with school district customers in all 50 states. STOPit also partners closely with organizations that service and sell to schools to reach their potential clients.
STOPit’s links to New Jersey are strong. Just recently, STOPit partnered with the Camden County Educational Services Commission (CCESC), a state government organization that provides many services — including transportation, internet, mental-health counselling and others — to schools in Camden County and other parts of the state, Mays said. The CCESC is a New Jersey local education agency established in 1979 as a shared services school district. The organization provides cost-effective services for students in public, charter, renaissance and nonpublic schools, as well as in private schools for the disabled; it also serves residents of the Camden County Juvenile Detention Center.
“We will be rolling out our traditional anonymous reporting platform, with other services such as our panic alert system and our social emotional learning curriculum.”
Fifteen New Jersey districts will implement STOPit’s Anonymous Reporting System (ARS) and its enhanced Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), Safety, & Wellness Training curriculum for students and staff.
Funding for the project came from a federal education grant, said Mays. And he added that “it’s a three year project where quite a large number of students will receive benefits well beyond our core solutions.”
The crisis intervention center will be a key part of the offering, “If we deliver STOPit into a school district, it becomes a community-available solution for not only students, but also for administrators, parents and the community,” Mays noted. That’s STOPit’s bottom line.