Chris Latvala seeking $2 million for online monitoring software to prevent student suicide
This photo released from Kara Illig shows her daughter, Ainslie Illig, 8, on her computer in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania. Frustrations mount as parents enter the second or even third week of total distance learning. Image via AP.

The funding would pay for the software subscription service "Gaggle."

Rep. Chris Latvala is requesting $2 million for a pilot program that would focus on statewide child suicide prevention.

The funding requested by Latvala would pay for the annual software subscription service “Gaggle,” which identifies indications of suicide, self-harm and abusive behaviors within student-issued, school-provided tools, according to the appropriations request.  

The software uses machine learning and artificial intelligence, as well as a two-person review process to identify indicators of harmful behaviors.

If the request is approved, school districts participating in the pilot would have constant analysis and review of student content in school-issued Google and Microsoft environments including creation tools, chats and emails.

The program comes at a time where COVID-19 has led to a drastic increase in online education tools. Chat volume increased 5,967% for the Fall 2020 semester, according to the request. And, incidents of suicide have risen by 47%.

The program would also notify school districts and parents via school personnel of explicit images their students may be storing and sharing on school accounts, which has increased by 68%, according to the request.

The goal of this mental health pilot initiative is to “protect Florida youth from suicide and self-harm.” Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for school-aged children in the U.S.

According to the request, 48 other states already use the technology. The states cite success factors including early notification of self-harm, explicit content and violent incidents, as well as leading to immediate interventions by appropriate school personnel.

“While the state has invested considerable money to keep children safe in the classroom, no investment has been made by the state to keep kids safe in the ‘digital classroom’ they are now using,” the request reads. “This technology would inform districts & staff to incidents prior to tragic events.”

During the 2019/2020 school year, the software helped school districts save 927 students who were planning an act of suicide, according to data from the company. In the same span, Gaggle blocked and reported more than 2,400 instances of sexually explicit materials involving minors.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


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