Student Safety Cited In L.A.-Area School District’s Hiring Of Social Media Watchdog

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Citing the importance of kids’ safety, the Glendale, California Unified School District has hired a third-party social media monitoring service to begin combing through the online postings of 13,000 high school students who attend eight middle and high schools.

According to CBS Los Angeles, the district has hired local company Geo Listening, a self-described “social network monitoring service,” to raise the alarm whenever it comes across postings that, by its own metrics, might indicate a student is heading toward trouble.

The company has agreed to turn over any telltale information to school administrators. It earns $40,500 a year through its agreement with the school district.

“The whole purpose is student safety,” said Superintendent Richard Sheehan. “Basically, it just monitors for keywords where, if a student is considering harming themselves; harming someone else.”

According to Sheehan, during the program’s test period last year, school officials were alerted to a possible student suicide attempt and were able to avert it.

A parent and student quoted in the news report each said they didn’t mind the scrutiny or the new intrusion on the student’s privacy – even if kids’ inner thoughts are now open to a layer of meaning-laden interpretation most carefree teenagers never consider.

Geo Listening CEO Chris Frydrych said his company monitors only public social media postings, and that the service is effective in helping to prevent bullying, self-abuse, drug abuse, vandalism and truancy.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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