FUSD Launches New Anonymous Reporting App

Dec 19, 2019

The Flagstaff Unified School District has launched an app that aims to meet the smartphone generation where they are. The Anonymous Alerts app allows students, parents and others to report information to the district…everything from concerns about bullying and mental health, to event schedules and even icy school sidewalks. It allows users to remain anonymous so they can seek help without fear of social reprisal. KNAU’s Zac Ziegler spoke with FUSD’s Zachery Fountain about the app.


Zac Ziegler: “Where did the idea for this app come from?”

Zachery Fountain: “This actually came out of our Student Advisory Council. Our superintendent and governing board meet with students regularly from all three high schools, and they were really trying to get feedback on how do you close a communication loop, and this was something that was brought up to our students. You know, they're not just experiencing their school environment anymore in person, but also digitally. And so they want to be able to share things like screenshots or whatever, things that they're seen that could impact the school.”

 ZZ: “So who are the staff on the other side of this? What kind of training do they have?”

ZF: “On the other side of this we have our school administration. They're the ones that are receiving messages. We also have our counselors that are part of it. What we had to do over the past nine months was really go through all of the different types of things that folks can report, there's a drop-down menu for those types of things, and so we figured out who needs to be alerted at each of the school sites and make sure that the message is lined up with that.”

ZZ: “What's the hopes for how this will improve student life?”

ZF: “Yeah, so the hope for this system improving student life is really just letting them have one more outlet. There was a lot of questions, you know, and kind of concerns about, ‘oh, it's just going to be a whole bunch of people using it for malicious reasons or whatever.’ And what we've actually seen is that is relatively limited. Our students have been responsible. We had eight reports, and they've all been something that we've been able to work through.”

ZZ: “So why make it anonymous?”

ZF: “There's actually an option on this app where you can respond anonymously or not, that's up to the user. We really just want to make sure that we remove the barriers where people feel afraid from sharing information. We want them to understand that we're here to help empower our students, and this is the way to do it.”

ZZ: “How could this help students through mental health issues?”

ZF: “If folks see that there are fellow students or somebody is in distress, this is an opportunity to get them the right resources. Additionally within the app with built-in some resources like Teen Lifeline and those types of things that have been trusted resources that the district has used a long time, and made it to where those resources are readily available through the app and then also through the web-based page.”

ZZ: “Is there any concern that students could use this a digital equivalent of pulling a fire alarm to get out of a test?”

ZF: “Yeah, I mean that's always a concern. We have the highest expectations that people use the tools appropriately. And I'll tell you our kids anymore have grown up in the environment where there are serious consequences for those types of things. I will tell you that coaching from our school administration and our teachers over time for them to understand that is something that we prioritize, and we want to make sure that they know, like, those aren't jokes anymore.”

ZZ: “You mentioned it's been used a handful of times so far. Has anything come of those reports?” 

ZF: “Well you know, first day within want to say 15 minutes, our first couple were about ice on sidewalks on the way to school, and so we were able to work with the appropriate folks on that. You know that was following that big Thanksgiving snow storm. We've had some other folks that, you know, there's been some word sensitive issues, and it feels like we're able to find some resolution pretty quickly.”

ZZ: “Zachery Fountain, thank you very much for joining me today.”

ZF: “Thanks for the opportunity.”