When I was teaching in the early 80s, one of my former students entered his classroom with a gun and shot himself in front of the classroom. Before he shot himself, he announced to the class that he was tired of being bullied and made fun of about his weight, and he hoped they would learn a lesson about mistreating people. As his middle school teacher, I had no idea he was being tormented by other students, and I’m haunted by the fact that if I had only known, I might have been able to do something to help him!
In the United States, laws requiring mandatory reporting substantiate a legal duty for teachers to report to state and local authorities when they suspect or have confirmed the mistreatment or abuse of children. These laws typically cover neglect and physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. These acts can occur through physical contact, but they can also occur through digital contact. Children who spend time in digital environments are clearly susceptible to this abuse in online environments, but it is much harder to detect without an online monitoring system. A pre-pandemic report notes that children spent as much as seven hours online before the pandemic, and Common Sense media reported a 17% increase from 2019 - 2021. The chances of children experiencing cyberbullying or online abuse are ever-present due to this extraordinary amount of connected time. UNICEF reports that ‘80% of children in 25 countries report feeling in danger of sexual abuse or exploitation online’.
In addition to online safety, the increased violence we see in schools, like the recent event in Uvalde appears to be on the rise. Texas is now taking a closer look at monitoring student safety, and monitoring online environments as part of the solution. A recent article in the Texas Tribune noted that 105 school districts in Texas use Gaggle and believe it is keeping them safer than any other monitoring tool on the market because of the depth of monitoring and the personal monitors who send email alerts directly to schools, specifically helpful when the issue is urgent. One superintendent said he believed his school could have had a shooting incident if they hadn’t received an alert from Gaggle monitors
If you are a superintendent reading this and thinking you wish you had the money to buy a solution that could prevent these travesties and keep you compliant with mandatory reporting laws, it’s not too late! ESSR funds can be used for security, and these types of purchases are eligible. Do something now, so that you aren't haunted like I wish you had done anything to help a student!