A California School District Is Paying A Company To Track Thousands Of Students On Social Media

Crescenta Valley High School suicideAPCrescenta Valley High School students sit outdoors after a 15-year-old boy plunged to his death from a school building in full view of dozens of students.

The third-largest school district in Los Angeles county has paid a company $US40,000 to track thousands of its students on social media in the hope of combating cyber bullying, the
Glendale News-Press reports.

Glendale Unified School District has hired Geo Listening to monitor about 13,000 middle school and high school students, according to the Glendale News-Press.

Here’s how the system works, according to Geo Listening’s website (emphasis ours):

Every day, there are posts about vandalism, crime, drugs, and all types of bullying from children who hope someone is listening. The volume of these posts is so overwhelming that it would be nearly impossible for schools — on their own — to efficiently filter through and take effective action. Geo Listening is an always monitoring service of all public posts on social networks that originate from your school campuses.

Geo Listening’s unique monitoring service will process, analyse and report the adverse social media from publicly available student posts. The service provides a daily report in alignment with existing school district procedures and board policy related to student conduct & safety. The daily district report takes into account frequency and severity of a student’s posts in alignment with the following categories: bullying, cyber bullying, despair, hate, harm, crime, vandalism, substance abuse, and truancy.

Glendale Unified Superintendent Dick Sheehan told the Glendale News-Press that the service is helping the district go “above and beyond” when it comes to safety.

A UCLA researcher who spoke to the Glendale News-Press called the program “big brother-ish.”

Students can opt out of the monitoring by making their posts private, since Geo Listening only tracks publicly available posts.

The company has said it’s making an effort not to be too intrusive. From a press release:

Geo Listening has retained privacy counsel with expertise in social networks, children’s privacy and privacy requirements in the education space, such as those contained within FERPA and state education codes. As always, Geo Listening is committed to making sure that it places a priority on privacy now and as its service grows.

Earlier this year, parents sued the Glendale district after a 15-year-old high school student jumped to death on campus, according to the Glendale News-Press. The parents allege that the district ignored bullying that led to the student’s suicide.

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