Why Office 365’s Safety Options Aren’t Enough to Protect Students

When technology departments begin to implement Office 365, they approach the question of whether or not to restrict student email communications to only users in the school or district. The decision is a prohibitive measure to protect both students and the school or district.

But does prohibiting email use actually protect students? We’re convinced it doesn’t go far enough. While it might protect the school or district against certain types of liability, protecting students requires much more.

Office 365 gives you the ability to lock down communication inside your domain, but that’s pretty much it. And while “student safety” is often equated with “locking down” communications, our Safety Representatives at Gaggle (who review student communications and files 24/7) discover an exceedingly larger number of threatening student situations occur within a school or district, rather than outside.

These internal situations that pose a threat to student safety include mentions of self-abuse or suicidal intentions, cyberbullying, violence toward others, possession of drugs or alcohol and much more. The limited prohibitive measures inherent to Office 365 only provide an illusion of safety when compared to more extensive measures that combine machine learning technology with real Safety Representatives who review suspicious content around the clock.

Moreover, Safety Representatives discover inappropriate relationships and incidents occurring between students and individuals outside the school and district. In most cases, these relationships don’t depend on the student’s possession of an email account, but rather the student met the individual on a mobile app, on social media or offline entirely.

The difference between prohibiting students and protecting students is vast. Prohibiting email simply prevents students from using the school- or district-provided account for communicating with the outside world. Protecting students involves a thorough review of communications, both internal and external, for a variety of suspicious conversations and images.

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