In an effort to curb cyberbullying, campus crime and suicide, the Orange County school district has started monitoring student messages on social media sites.
The district has acquired new software that analyzes social media messages from its campuses, The Orlando Sentinel reports. The program also allows the district to search messages posted on various sites including Facebook and Twitter for key words that might indicate trouble.
Chief Operations Officer Michael Eugene said the program is aimed at “prevention and early intervention.”
School officials acknowledge the online snooping might raise privacy questions. But board member Linda Kobert said the district is taking advantage of “new tools to protect our children.”
The district’s security staff will monitor messages and worrisome posts will be referred to school administrators or police.
Doug Tripp, senior director of safety and security, said all the messages are “open-source information” that are publicly available to anyone with the right tools.
The program, which launched a few weeks ago, has already had one success story, Eugene said. He said the Snaptrends software found a student threatening “self-harm,” a discovery which led district staff to contact police and help the family get needed services.
Orange administrators announced the effort in a Wednesday email to parents and staff, followed by a Thursday news release. They hoped the announcement would help prevent end-of-the-year pranks and spark discussion during the summer between parents and students about appropriate social media use, Eugene said.
The software, which costs about $14,000 a year, is in a “rollout phase” now and will be fully running at the start of the 2015-16 school year, Tripp said.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.