On December 13, 2013, an 18‐year‐old student walked into a suburban Denver high school with a shot gun, a machete and a backpack holding three Molotov cocktails seeking revenge against the school librarian. He approached the library, shot one student at point blank range in the head, and then continued through the library searching for his intended target before taking his own life.
This school shooting, one of 30 known incidents of school gun violence in 2013 alone, occurred roughly 10 miles from where two students killed 13 in a rampage at Columbine High School in April 1999. This shooting also came one day before the one year anniversary of one of the most tragic and deadly school shootings in America, Sandy Hook.
When news broke of the shooting on Dec. 13th, the Gaggle team recalled a recent situation involving two students uncovered by our Human Monitoring Team. The students, both sophomores in high school, had an off the cuff conversation on social media regarding a purchase of a “Glock” handgun.This conversation caught the attention of the Gaggle Cyber Security Agents monitoring Gaggle communications that evening and prompted a phone call to the school district’s emergency contact alerting them of the situation.
The Gaggle Human Monitoring Service (HMS) team views and escalates thousands of incidents of violence, some weapon related every school year. When a student is in Gaggle, our system filters all student messages for inappropriate language, content and our lists of blocked words include; not only references to drugs and sexual activity, but words that can signal bullying, threats of violence, and suicide.
With the addition of the Human Monitoring Service, provided to all districts who utilized the Gaggle platform, we route the blocked notifications to our monitoring team who reads each message with a thoughtful eye and then escalates the message or situation to a district contact if further intervention is needed. So far this school year, the HMS team has escalated and intervened on 1700 incidents of violence; some of which have prevented and detoured students from committing major acts of violent crime.
Gaggle has over 13 years of experience with student safety, but even we have been surprised by the number and variety of harmful situations we’ve discovered. We’re more committed than ever to keeping kids safe, so they can focus on learning. We’ll share what we are seeing, and why so many schools and districts appreciate the middle ground Gaggle provides between the extremes of blocking electronic communication completely or relying on acceptable use policies with wide‐open access.