Note: This story comes from a parent who lives in a school district using Gaggle Safety Management. Names have been changed to protect privacy.
When her son Matthew was in seventh grade, Tricia received a call that no parent wants to experience: The school had been alerted to a suicide note written by her son.
The note in question had not initially been found by school staff—Matthew’s friend saw the note and alerted an adult about the situation. Matthew’s parents were immediately called and brought in, and he was given the help he needed. While his story had a happy ending, Tricia decided to dig deeper into the bigger issue: student safety in the digital world.
Safeguarding All Students
Since the suicide note had been written on a district device, Tricia asked why the school hadn’t caught it themselves. And more importantly, were other potentially dangerous situations being missed? While the district was using Gaggle’s student safety platform at the time, it was only being utilized at the high school level. So although they had a safety net in place, it wasn’t protecting all students.
Following the incident with her son, Tricia pointed out the need for a greater review across all grade levels. “After learning the solution was only being used at the high school, I was angry,” she said. “I asked them, ‘What if something happens? Would you want that on your hands?’”
Recognizing the different direction Matthew’s story could have taken, and that younger students needed the same level of protection, the school district expanded its usage of Gaggle to incorporate the middle school. Said Tricia, “Knowing that extra layer of protection is on their network makes me feel safe because these kids are on the computers. And if they’re on the district network, if something is being written or even searched for, I want somebody looking after them because it takes a village to raise kids.”
Promoting Digital Citizenship
Tricia firmly believes that Gaggle helps parents as much as it helps school districts and students. “We can’t constantly be over their shoulders looking at them—and as a parent, I don’t want that,” she said. “I want them to be independent and to know right from wrong. Gaggle provides an extra form of guardianship that’s helping parents to feel more at ease when we can’t be by their sides.”
“Teachers can’t always be over them either—especially for the kids who have their own device,” she added. “My son has his own device because he has an IEP (Individualized Education Program), and those kids have them all day long.” Gaggle helps remove the burden from staff, watching over the network 24/7 with a combination of technology and trained safety experts to provide real-time analysis and review of students’ use of school-issued devices.
Having Gaggle on these devices offers Tricia a greater sense of security. “I don’t have a filter at home—I have to trust my kids,” she said. “I teach them about digital citizenship because if they don’t want something out there, they shouldn’t post it. They’ll say ‘I deleted it!’ or ‘It goes away in 10 minutes!’ and I tell them it doesn’t. Anybody can take a screenshot.” The permanence of digital activity can be a difficult concept for teenagers to understand. “It will never go away,” said Tricia. “They have to realize that.”
“We Can’t Do It on Our Own”
While some parents are concerned about privacy when it comes to reviewing and analyzing students’ digital activity, Gaggle Safety Management gives Tricia peace of mind. “If it’s going to protect my child or save my child, I don’t care how you get the information, just get it,” she said. “And that’s what I believe Gaggle is doing—it’s getting struggling kids the help they need because we can’t do it on our own.”
But what do students think about this practice? Tricia spoke with Matthew about Gaggle to learn more about his thoughts on the concept of monitoring students’ online presence. She said, “Matthew thought it was a good thing. He also added that if you are writing anything on a school computer—or searching for anything on the internet with a school computer—the school has every right to monitor it.”
Gaggle’s in-house team of trained safety professionals work around the clock to evaluate and categorize incidents based on their severity. They forward this information to the district’s contacts, who can then determine whether a student is in need of help or simply researching concerning subjects for a class. “My kids know that if they don’t want anybody to know about something, they shouldn’t do it, say it, or write it. I let them know that if they want to write something dark, say for a creative writing assignment or something, that’s okay. But they have to make sure their wording is what they want people to see.”
A Proactive Approach to Student Safety
With Gaggle, school districts can proactively identify and support students who are struggling and ensure the safety and well-being of their students and schools. “There’s so much going on—so much bullying and mental health issues. If the district ever tried to take Gaggle away, I would be up there fighting for it,” noted Tricia. “People don’t always believe that technology is needed or the extra cost is needed, but I would be up there causing a scene if this was cut. In this day and age, we have to do everything to protect our kids.”
“Gaggle gives me reassurance as a parent,” she concluded. “Consider the ability, the time, and the staff that so many districts don’t have. For a company to be able to catch and deliver that information is really great. Gaggle makes me believe that for the kid who needs the help, there’s a great possibility that they will find it.”