In today’s educational world, keeping digital natives safe requires a multifaceted approach that includes many different stakeholders—none of which can operate in a silo. At Denver Public Schools (DPS), every student has a Google account, including email, drive, and calendar. Email account activity often begins in second grade. By the time those students are in fourth grade, they’re using Drive to store assignments for group work.
For the last seven years, DPS has externally monitored student email. In 2016, it expanded monitoring to include student drives. “In the last three years, we’ve tripled the number of possible student situations,” said Melissa Craven, Director of Emergency Management for DPS’ Department of Safety.
“Due to more technology being used in our schools,” she continued, “we’re seeing an increase in ‘questionable content’ and ‘possible student situations’ in our elementary age students (from 37 for the 2016–17 school year to 288 this year).”
Last year, Kellie Riley, DPS Student Safety Specialist, said the student safety platform alerted DPS of a student considering suicide, allowing the district to intervene before anything happened—a scenario that’s already repeated itself 70 times in 2019 alone.
“We needed to make sure we’re keeping kids safe in this new world that we’ve introduced them to,” Craven explained. “As a school district, it’s unacceptable for us to put this kind of technology in the students’ hands without some sort of oversight.”
Early on, she said the district used Gaggle only as an email solution. That changed four years ago when DPS started using the platform with G Suite. The decision was largely driven by the fact that students had stopped using email to communicate with one another and had moved on to using Drive. “It wasn’t like the communication stopped; they just transitioned over to a different platform,” added Riley. “That was a real eye-opener for us.”
A Layered Approach to Student Safety
According to Craven, DPS takes a layered approach to school safety that includes robust drill schedules and emergency response training for all staff members. With 140 employees, DPS’ Department of Safety has 18 uniformed and armed officers who use mobile patrol vehicles.
“Another 18 of us are a little ‘softer’ in our dress, but we are also armed to respond to emergencies,” said Craven. Roughly 80 campus safety officers are assigned to DPS’ middle and high schools and are supported by a 24/7/365 law enforcement dispatch center (which handles about 20,000 calls annually).
Last year, Gaggle reviewed about one million pieces of documentation for DPS. Many of those alerts went to Riley, who reviewed each one to determine whether further action was warranted. She calls this process “triage,” and says some cases come down to teenage drama, swearing (for which students receive an automatic warning), and even inappropriate quotes taken from books.
“We don’t want all the stuff that I look at to be going to dispatch or law enforcement,” said Riley. “They have more important things to do than investigate why someone put a picture of a marijuana leaf on his drive.”
Gaggle Is Second to None
Craven said the Gaggle student safety platform is “second to none,” and helps her sleep at night knowing that someone is paying close attention to students’ drive and email activity. “The fact that Gaggle has human eyes on all of this is great too,” she explained.
“I’ve received phone calls at 2:00 Saturday morning because a Gaggle safety analyst came across something that couldn’t wait or couldn’t be emailed,” Craven continued. “I’m certainly grateful that they have no hesitation in picking up the phone to call me—especially when it comes to our students’ safety, which is priority number one for all of us.”