Hollidaysburg Area School District provides Gmail accounts to all middle school and high school students. Students in grades 10-12 take home 1:1 devices, while middle school students in grades seven through nine share an additional 1,000-plus Chromebooks.
Communication and collaboration is a huge part of what we do and where we’re going,” said Justin Arthur, the district’s director of technology. “We knew that if we were going to allow students to start communicating and collaborating more that we needed to make sure they were safe.”
With Gaggle Safety Management in place, Hollidaysburg allows students to email outside the district’s domain while maintaining compliance with US privacy and safety laws, particularly those involving children, like the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).
In addition to helping the district stay on top of day-to-day concerns such as minor profanity and inappropriate content—addressed individually with each student through email notifications—Gaggle has proven to be a valuable part of the district’s technology initiatives.
“We’ve seen items registered with the National Center for Missing Exploited Children and everything in between,” said Mr. Arthur. “It makes me feel better knowing that we’re doing everything possible to protect our students.”
The district’s Gaggle Emergency Contacts are on the frontline of keeping students safe and believe that there’s tremendous value in addressing safety concerns promptly. In addition to Mr. Arthur, the district’s deans of students and high school and middle school principals also receive notifications from the Gaggle Safety Team.
Hollidaysburg also has a parent and staff advisory group that works to address student wellness concerns. Gaggle is a part of that initiative. “There are times when students don’t feel comfortable reaching out to adults to get the help they need, but might mention it in an email to a peer,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Gildea. “If Gaggle can pick that up and prevent a student from harming himself or herself, then that’s well worth it.”
Both Dr. Gildea and Mr. Arthur share an opinion that, without Gaggle in place, they would be preventing students from taking advantage of the ways we communicate today. “It would be impossible to have Gmail open to the world,” said Mr. Arthur. “When you’re restricting email to just within a district, it makes it difficult for students. We want to open up the educational opportunities.”
Hollidaysburg administrators also take a very transparent approach to student safety, making sure to include monitoring as part of its acceptable use policy and meeting with students and parents to inform them of the safety measures in place. “It’s gone over very well,” said Mr. Arthur. “I think you will always have people who are concerned about privacy, but there’s always those who want us to protect their children even more.”
“Unfortunately, in today’s world, there’s a lot of distrust,” added Dr. Gildea, but once we convince our parents that everything that we do is to protect their children, they’re on board.”