The 2019–20 school year was the most unusual in modern history. Between building closures, quarantine orders, and an overnight transition to distance learning, the end result was a striking contrast to the typical school year.
Here at Gaggle, we saw those differences translate into noticeable changes in our data, which is captured in our annual Through the Gaggle Lens: The State of Student Safety report. Along with diving into what we saw across the full school year, we also take a look at the student trends we discovered during the pandemic time frame.
What We Saw
Gaggle analyzed more than 6.25 billion items during the 2019–20 school year. While the amount of content we reviewed throughout the year grew across the board (84% increase for emails, 29% for files, and 120% for chats), the pandemic played a significant role in this growth. With students at home and on devices more, reviewed email messages increased by 128%, files increased by 40%, and chats increased by an incredible 288% during the pandemic time frame.
We also noted increases across every incident category: 19% for Suicide & Self-Harm, 12% for Violence Toward Others, 24% for Nudity & Sexual Content, 61% for Harassment, and 22% for Drugs & Alcohol. During the school year, Gaggle discovered approximately 64,000 references to suicide or self-harm in students’ online activity, 5,600 of which were serious enough to merit immediate attention by the district. In addition, we found around 38,000 references of violence toward others—more than 1,600 warranted an immediate call to prevent a potential incident.
A Shift During the Pandemic
We saw a notable change in the hours of student activity after school buildings closed in response to the pandemic. Before the pandemic, 40% of incidents occurred after hours (5:00 PM to 8:00 AM and weekends) and 12% occurred overnight (10:00 PM to 7:00 AM). During the pandemic, these shifted to 55% of the incidents occurring after hours and 22% overnight. Both before and during the pandemic, it's clear that a significant number of incidents were happening outside school hours when educators weren’t actively watching what students posted online.
Another notable, and unfortunate, result of the pandemic was a disturbing number of references to abuse. Living under quarantine orders may have contributed to increased stress in the home, which might explain some of these incidents. “With school buildings closing, we saw a large increase in incidents requiring intervention occurring at home,” said Vice President of Operations Heather Durkac. “The threats of violence in the school building and reports of harassment in the hallway were replaced with abuse and struggles with self-harm and suicide at home.”
Each year, we also track student lives saved. During the 2019–2020 school year, Gaggle helped school districts across the country save the lives of 927 students. While the number of lives Gaggle saved increased by 28% year over year, the pre-pandemic increase was 11%, compared to 32% during the pandemic. These numbers show that Gaggle’s student safety platform is as important to saving lives when students are learning remotely as it is when students are on campus.
Be sure to download the report to learn more about what we saw during the 2019–20 school year.