I-SS Board approves use of social media policing software for student devices

Posted at 4:08 PM on Sep 10, 2019

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BY KARISSA MILLER

When Iredell-Statesville Schools students use their laptops at school and at home, a team of Gaggle specialists will soon be monitoring their social activity posts and other online activities.

The school board approved the use of social media monitoring software on all student devices by a vote of 4 to 2 Monday night at the board’s regular meeting.

School Board members Martin Page, Chuck Gallyon, Charles Kelly and Samuel Kennington voted in favor of the software.

Board members Ken Poindexter and Bill Howell voted against the motion. Howell said that he believes it violates students’ Fourth Amendment rights. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects personal privacy, and every citizen's right to be free from unreasonable government intrusion into their persons, homes, businesses and property.

“My opinion -- this will get tested. It just hasn’t happened yet. I would caution the board to think about this before you vote,” Howell said during the committee of the whole meeting.

Page disagreed. “If this thing saves one life, it’s well worth it,” he said.

The company will monitor social media posts, behind the scenes, by searching for specific keywords — like “shooting” or any mention of a weapon — to determine if there is a threat to students and school personnel in or around campus.

“Our idea is not to catch kids. This is about real danger, real threats,” explained Kelly Marcy, I-SS director of student support services.

Superintendent Brady Johnson said the Gaggle software team will be monitoring information that is published in a public domain.

“We are not invading people’s privacy or things like that,” he added.

The software will be paid for by the Iredell County Board of Commissioners. The cost, which includes a one-time setup fee and professional development, is $111,630.

How it Works

According to Executive Director of Technology and Media Services David Edwards, emails, social media postings and other files will be monitored by the Gaggle team.

The software is part of the district’s ongoing partnership to keep students safe from cyberattacks and bullying, and to help aid in the early detection of potential threats of violence and student self-harm, Edwards said.

Edwards explained that the district has been using a website filter, but that doesn’t provide active monitoring of safety and security.

“One of the key services that sets Gaggle apart from its competitors is the real-time monitoring and reporting of incidents and threats,” Edwards explained. “This ensures prompt identification and communication of incidents.

The software analyzes and reviews content. It can run searches tailored to certain keywords, but it is not a foolproof system.

When an issue arises, school or district contacts are notified or in some cases law enforcement.

If you see something, say something

As a separate measure, the "Say Something” app will be available to students in North Carolina public middle and high schools across the state starting in the fall of 2019.

The state is paying for the installation and training for the app.

The app is free for users and is designed to encourage students to anonymously report tips about a wide variety of potential dangers, including weapons on campus, bullying incidents, drug use, or self-harm.

The program is a partnership with Sandy Hook Promise, an organization created by families of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012.

All reports go to a center where they are evaluated and then connected directly to a school safety team contact or law enforcement.

Gaggle and the Say Something app will complement each other, I-SS officials said.

Next Meeting

The next board meeting is Oct. 7 at North Iredell High School auditorium, located at 156 Raider Road, Olin, at 6 p.m.

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