Every year, we like to look back and reflect upon all that we have been able to accomplish over the past 12 months. 2020 was a challenging year for many, with COVID-19, social movements, and a historic election pushing students, schools, and communities to their limits.
We started the year with the news that Gaggle had helped a New York district safeguard a sixth-grade student against a child predator. After the Gaggle platform blocked pornographic content from the student’s school-issued device, the district was able to hand over the evidence to local police. A months-long investigation resulted in the arrest and conviction of a 36-year-old male in Michigan, preventing the individual from targeting additional children.
An article from NBC News in February detailed how student safety platforms like Gaggle have helped save suicidal teens. In the article, Superintendent Michael S. Kuhrt from Wichita Falls Independent School District in Texas spoke about how Gaggle had helped prevent four student suicides in the three years his district had been utilizing the service. And because of this awareness of how much students were struggling, the district hired additional counselors to better support students at all three high schools.
Meeting Our Partners’ Needs During the Pandemic
We worked diligently with our district partners as they transitioned to distance learning in March, expanding their services to ensure all students would be protected in the digital environment. In the first month of school shutdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Gaggle partnered with 131 school districts across the country, either conducting an initial purchase of its safety solution or acquiring increased services or support. This support was critical in protecting students as they continued their learning from home. In fact, Gaggle’s annual student safety report examining the 2019–20 school year showed a 21% increase in nudity and sexual content involving minors and a 79% increase in imminent threats to students’ lives due to domestic abuse.
In the late spring, Gaggle announced the extension of web filter support and SpeakUp for Safety tipline free of cost to schools already using Gaggle Safety Management. With these three student safety services working in tandem, school districts were now able to protect students with the most comprehensive safety management solution on the market. Gaggle also unveiled integration of its safety solution with Microsoft Teams in April, offering educators yet another way to protect students in the digital environment.
The shift to distance learning brought about another concern for our IT team: The need for Gaggle to scale and improve performance for massive unexpected growth. Our customers’ move to a distance learning model—and its related increased reliance on cloud-based tools—resulted in a 600% year-over-year increase in the traffic coming into Gaggle’s networks. In order to meet our customers’ needs for the new school year, our technical staff spent the summer making improvements to our infrastructure to ensure stability and scalability while keeping students safe around the clock.
A Busy Fall Season
In September, we launched Gaggle Therapy, a new service that matches students who need mental health support with counselors licensed in their state for weekly teletherapy sessions. We decided we want to be part of the solution—moving beyond identifying students in crisis to addressing the crisis head-on. The perfect complement to Gaggle Safety Management, Gaggle Therapy connects students with therapists for sessions at home or school, with appointments offered after school, during evenings, and even on weekends.
October marked the beginning of Gaggle’s Student Wellness Series of webinars, providing educators and districts with ways to support students struggling with a variety of mental health challenges, including self-harm, anxiety, and eating disorders. In addition, we launched our new podcast, which will cover a variety of education topics, feature interviews with industry leaders, and dive into the latest issues impacting educators and students.
This fall, we also enhanced our platform with new features designed to improve the user experience. A new interactive Incident Workflow feature offers simplified reporting and allows for incidents to be managed and resolved in a simple, intuitive web interface. In addition, a new interface offers a straightforward experience for our Gaggle partners, allowing admins to quickly access, view, and manage emergency contacts to ensure full coverage for student safety incidents. Be sure to look out for additional user-friendly updates coming soon!
Just last month, we released a special report detailing the increasing student struggles during the first three months of the 2020–21 school year. Compared to the same time frame during the 2019–20 school year, Gaggle noted a significant increase in student safety incidents and lives saved, along with a noticeable shift in activity at the elementary level.
Feeling Hopeful for 2021
Hopefully, you can take some time to reflect upon the impact you have made on the students in your life and the support that you have provided to their safety and well-being throughout this challenging year. While we can’t predict how 2021 will pan out, we are hopeful for this new year. We hope all students can get back to school soon, we hope people stay well, and we hope life will begin to feel normal again as the year progresses. Please know that no matter what happens this year, we will continue to help you identify and support your struggling students.