When it comes to cyberbullying, threats against or towards minors, possible violence and other major issues involving youths these days, what responsibility lies on the school systems? Not many schools, teachers, principals or parents truly know the answer to this important question. However, a school district in Glendale, California has voluntarily taken on the task of monitoring their students’ public social media posts, mentions and chatter for any signs of violence, bullying, drug use and more. A total of 14,000 middle and high school students’ (13 years of age and older) posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts will be monitored by a third-party firm, paid for by the school district, over the next year.
Many are wondering whether this is a good or bad thing – and even if it’s legal. First of all, as the firm will be monitoring public posts, there’s nothing illegal about it. Second of all, as a crisis prevention strategy, this is truly an excellent undertaking.
This Glendale school district tested out this crisis prevention strategy by monitoring 9,000 students at three high schools and a middle school last spring. As a result, they were able to successfully intervene a child who was posting about ending his life.
Important risks to be aware of and plan for
Although this is a truly great method of crisis prevention, there are some risks that come along with such a bold undertaking. For example, one of these risks involve not catching a warning sign in time. Heavens forbid a red flag be missed and, as a result, one of the risks the school is monitoring for becomes a reality. The blame and criticism that could be put on the shoulders of the school district as a result could be extremely damaging.
As this is a big undertaking, the school district needs to think through the risks involved and put plans in place for the worst-case scenarios. From there, they can continue with this proactive strategy and monitor knowing that, if an incident or crisis were to occur they are prepared – not just to handle the crisis, but to handle the backlash that, had this monitoring protocol not been in place, may not have existed.
As someone who writes, posts and cares deeply about issues such as cyberbullying, I would like to applaud Glendale school district for their forward thinking and proactive efforts in dealing with these grave cyber issues that are, unfortunately, realities for our youths today. Hopefully their actions and efforts will encourage and inspire even more school districts and school boards to do the same.
For more information on this school district’s monitoring strategy, read this post.