Safety Management for G Suite Leads to at Least Five Successful Interventions
Texas School District Uses Gaggle as Its Own Personal “911” System
When a nearby school shooting and the effects of Hurricane Harvey impacted Dickinson ISD’s students and staff, the district turned to a school safety platform to help it monitor online and offline activity.
Dr. Melissa Williams-Scott knows firsthand the heartbreak of losing a young student to suicide, and then wondering afterwards what could have been done to prevent the tragedy from ever happening. “It’s been 17 years and I still wonder what I missed,” said Dr. Williams Scott, Executive Director of Information Systems at Dickinson Independent School District in Texas. “Had we been able to search through databases and scan hard drives at the time, maybe we could have seen a sign or caught something.”
Fast-forward to 2018 and this IT professional once again found herself working through the same thought process with a student who took his own life. This time, the district’s student safety platform quickly picked up on the problem, alerting the district to scan his hard drives to look for clues (as it happens, there were no such “clues” found).
“The response from Gaggle was impressive,” said Dr. Williams-Scott. “They let us know that if we needed any support or services, they were there for us.”
Putting Them on Alert
Over the last year, the district recorded five incidents where students were in danger of hurting themselves or others. All five warning signs were detected by Gaggle, which alerted the district and, in turn, ensured that the students received the proper intervention (including hospitalization) and support. “Gaggle triggered additional help for the students whom we may have otherwise missed,” added Dr. Williams-Scott.
Before implementing its student safety platform, Dickinson ISD was struggling with encryption and content filter challenges related to its use of Google and G Suite for Education, the latter of which is used for both student and staff communication and collaboration.
After attending the RTMCIO conference in 2018, Dr. Williams-Scott spoke with the district’s network engineer about the need to monitor student communications. That need increased when the district was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey—a massive storm that created much trauma for the impacted residents.
“Over 65% of Dickinson’s homes and businesses were severely flooded and close to 20% of student and staff homes were as well; our community’s homes were damaged to the point where the were uninhabitable,” explained Dr. Williams Scott, whose team was concerned about student welfare and well-being in the aftermath of the hurricane. “Our content filter was picking up some of the interactions among staff and students, but not enough.
Dickinson ISD borders Santa Fe ISD where at Santa Fe High School, 10 people—eight students and two teachers—were fatally shot, and 13 others were wounded in May of 2018. “That woke us up, along with others who thought the school or parents were taking care of everything,” stated Dr. Williams Scott. “This tragedy brought us all back together because when it’s your neighbor, you realize very quickly it could have been you.”
Their Own Personal 911
Drawn in by Gaggle’s 24/7/365 online guarantee and the way it could quickly identify, act on, and alert the district of potential problems, Dickinson ISD implemented the platform in August of 2018. During the platform’s first year in use, the district caught numerous potential problems that ranged from seemingly innocent sentences to full-blown emergencies—and everything in between.
For example, when students are writing in their journals from home, or emailing one another, “Hey, I have the pills you wanted. Meet me before you get on the bus,” school principals are alerted with plenty of time to intervene and stop the destructive behavior from ever happening. “It’s sad, helpful, and cool all at the same time,” Dr. Williams-Scott mused.
Working within the confines of a tight district budget, Dr. Williams-Scott isn’t one to just throw money away on the latest and greatest technology tools. “I’m pretty picky about how we spend our money because we just don’t have the funds to waste,” she pointed out. “We’ve been very pleased with our investment in Gaggle, which is basically like having your own personal ‘911’ system specifically for your district.”