Gaggle Speaks

Ideas, news, and advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

Written by Paget Hetherington
on December 20, 2019

When Gaggle first launched 20 years ago, the main safety issues in schools were bullying, fighting, and drugs. Our focus was on providing the right tools and getting everything under control—in most cases, that meant finding out who students were communicating with, what they were telling one another, and flagging suspicious conversations. The concerns of 1999 all still exist, but they’ve since been overshadowed by horrific events like school shootings and the growing cyberbullying problem. As trends in risky student behavior shifted, we expanded our offerings to include products that help schools create safe learning environments.

With mental health issues manifesting into mass shootings, suicides, self-harm, and even violence toward teachers, schools need digital tools to help them identify and intervene as quickly as possible. These events can have devastating impacts on schools and the communities that surround them for years after the incident occurs. There are many different ways lives are being destroyed by unhealthy mental patterns—patterns that stick with children as they develop into adults and can negatively impact the rest of their lives.

With more kids reacting to the world in unsafe ways, things are only going to get worse until we, as a society, learn how to successfully manage mental health issues. To do that, districts need to get out in front of school safety before tragedy happens. And it’s not just about shootings and suicides—it’s about figuring out what’s going on in students’ heads and ensuring that they come out of school with strong self-esteem. This isn’t happening right now, and it’s pushing more students to resort to self-harm, suicide, and violence toward others.

Districts can reverse this tide by using technology to analyze what their students are doing online, how they’re communicating with one another, what they’re sharing, and how they’re interacting. We know that technology won’t provide all of the answers, but by proactively reviewing students' communications to identify those who are in crisis and want help, administrators can make a difference. In many cases, the intervention comes long before any action is taken—something that isn’t possible using a reactive school safety approach.

Student safety has come a long way over the past two decades, but we’re still not where we need to be in terms of keeping our kids safe. By combining people and technology, we can take the concept of safety and embed it into other tools and systems that students and schools are using every day. Only then can we successfully help students in crisis and address the mental health issues that are impacting our nation’s schools right now.

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