As a former criminal investigator and special agent with various law enforcement agencies, including foreign tour assignments in Latin America, Mario De La Rosa, Round Rock Independent School District’s Director of Safety and Security, understands the value of monitoring communications within legal limits and school privacy policies.
Round Rock ISD relies on Gaggle Safety Management to help keep its more than 48,000 students safe when they’re using district-provided G Suite for Education accounts. Safety Management combines machine learning technology with expert Safety Representatives, who review content 24/7 to ensure students are safe and alert district personnel if students are in imminent danger.
While Mr. De La Rosa is the primary Emergency Contact for Gaggle, he’s part of a team that takes a proactive approach to student safety. At Round Rock ISD, that group includes administrators—such as Superintendent Dr. Steve Flores, Gordon Pérez. Associate Director of Administrative Projects, Dr. Christina Wiswell, Director of Counseling Services—and ongoing communication with the Round Rock Police Department and the Williamson County Sheriff Office.
“We want to make sure our kids are safe in our classrooms, in our stadiums, and when using the technology that we provide them,” he said. “Right away, I was attracted to Gaggle, and then I started seeing the impact it had on our district and our students.”
One story that stands out involves a student who was planning on committing suicide.
“It was a Saturday night, and I got a call around 10:15 p.m.,” he recalled. “It was a Gaggle Safety Representative, and as soon as he spoke, I could hear in his voice that it was important.” After making a phone call to the district’s police liaison, two officers were dispatched to the student’s house. “The email was pretty descriptive about how the boy was going to do it. Once the police arrived, and after talking to the parents and the student, it was clear he was under duress and in dire need of some psychological help.”
The Round Rock-Gaggle relationship extends even further, to Dr. Amy Grosso, the district’s Grants Coordinator, who plays an integral role as well. Dr. Grosso is a former mental health counselor and is very active with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “It’s been very interesting for me to see what students write and how Gaggle alerts our district to students who might be having a crisis,” she said. “We wouldn’t know otherwise because they’re not talking about it, they’re not telling a teacher, they’re not telling their parents. It’s the only way we would know.”
Mr. De La Rosa cautions any district to not make technology the primary champion for a solution like Gaggle Safety Management. “Our technology team was instrumental in getting Gaggle inside Round Rock,” said Mr. De La Rosa. “When we created the safety and security department, we were able to uncover how other departments play a role in the safety of our students.
“A lot of school districts are territorial, but we have a great relationship with our technology department. We’re trying to put everything under one umbrella, and part of that effort has been knocking down those silos. We all can own student safety because we’re trying to accomplish the same objective.”
With the passage of David’s Law in Texas, student online safety concerns remain paramount at Round Rock ISD and throughout the state. Named in memory of high school student David Molak, school districts are required to have a method for students to report cyberbullying anonymously.
David’s Law also requires schools to notify parents by the next day if their child has been a target of bullying, and to notify the parents of the perpetrator within a reasonable amount of time. The law provides immunity to educators who report bullying, while schools have the authority to investigate cyberbullying and to work with law enforcement on such investigations.
“Student online safety remains a big concern because kids are very savvy and sometimes it’s hard for adults to keep up,” said Mr. De La Rosa. “Gaggle Safety Management already has paid for itself. We’ve received information about guns, weapons and other threats. It’s part of our school safety program and has proven to work.”