School district monitoring students’ social media posts

September 19, 2013
glendale

A California school district has hired a contractor to monitor what some 14,000 students post on Facebook, Twitter and other social media in an effort to find students who may be displaying suicidal thoughts, being bullied, or in need of other help. Many other school districts are apparently signing on to do the same thing.

According to The Los Angeles Times, the Glendale Unified School District hired a company called Geo Listening to look at the public social media posts of middle and high school students. If the monitors feel that adults should intervene in a situation or find instances where students’ codes of conduct have been violated, district officials are notified.

The monitoring began last year as a pilot program in three schools and has now been expanded at a time when the district is dealing with the aftermath of several suicides in the district in the last year or so.

Some people in the district support the monitoring because they believe it will help students who need help and are afraid to ask for it. Others are worried that student privacy and the right to free speech is being trampled, especially if students are punished by the school for things they posted outside of school.

Chris Frydrych, founder and chief executive of Geo Listening, told The Los Angeles Times  that his company doesn’t look at the private correspondence of students or hack into their accounts, but looks only at public posts.

He also said that he expects that by the end of his year, his company will be monitoring the social media posts of students at some 3,000 schools around the world.

Is this crossing a line?

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · September 18, 2013