When you ask Luann Hughes, Director of Technology at Temple Independent School District (ISD) in Texas, to talk about student safety, she’s quick to point out that her district isn’t unique. “Students are students and the environment they live in today is so open that it can be difficult for any school district to keep students safe,” she said.
Temple ISD uses iPads to introduce students in kindergarten and first grade to technology. Chromebooks are provided to third through eighth graders, while high school students get their own Chromebook. When seniors graduate, they get to keep their device.
A G Suite for Education district since 2012, all K-12 students have access to email and other communication and collaboration products from Google. From day one, Temple ISD has relied on Gaggle Safety Management for G Suite, which identifies harmful situations in Gmail, Google Docs, Slides, Google Drive and Sheets. Temple ISD also was one of the first districts to have its Emergency Contacts receive text messages from the Gaggle Safety Team.
Jessica Mays is the district’s Instructional Technology Specialist at Temple High School. She’s one of three Emergency Contacts and doesn’t hesitate to admit that Gaggle Safety Management has become an integral part of the district’s edtech efforts. “It puts the people into technology,” she said. “Gaggle has helped us learn more about our student population and realize that no matter how great the technology initiative and how many resources we might have, it’s all about students’ success and keeping them safe.”
Temple ISD’s student population includes high rates of generational poverty, which leads to some challenges when it comes to communicating the district’s technology plans to parents. Parent nights introduce the entire school community to technology initiatives as well as the district’s content filters and Gaggle Safety Management.
“You can see the relief on parents’ faces,” Luann said. “It’s great assurance to them that we’re taking care of their kids not only during the school day but when they take technology home.”
Jessica goes into each parent night taking nothing for granted. “The main focus of our work is to talk about student safety and how we focus on making sure that their children are protected,” she said. “Our community expects it. Some of our older generations might only be familiar with Dateline stories because they only see the horrors of the Internet on television and don’t know that it can hit home.”
After Luann, Jessica or Thomas Nichols, Instructional Technology Specialist for Temple’s middle schools, receive Gaggle notifications, they work directly with counselors and assistant principals based on the nature of the incident. If there’s suspected criminal activity, they turn to a school resource officer. “I thought we might have some pushback because of extra work,” recalled Luann. “Their response has been very positive. Our [staff] absolutely want to help kids. And in some cases, it helped provide some insight that we might not have had.”
The focus has always been on creating teachable moments. Luann and her team have developed a unique system of questions for administrators to go through when they’re talking with students about inappropriate behavior. “We want to educate them on why something they said or did might not have been the best choice, what should be done in place of it, and what to do when you realize you’ve made a bad choice,” said Jessica.
A digital leadership team of students stays on top of current trends and even gains insight into some of the incidents discovered by Gaggle Safety Management. They also help create public service announcements and lessons for their peers.
Luann and her team cherish these and other connections they’ve made with the student body. They’re often able to identify struggling students who are ultimately more successful inside and outside of school. “Gaggle has become the single most important piece of our technology initiative,” said Jessica. “Without Gaggle in place, I would not feel comfortable doing my job. I’d just be doing a bunch of button-clicking.”
With the passage of David’s Law in Texas, student online safety concerns continue to be in the forefront. “We’ve created a very safe environment for our students,” said Luann. “I hear too often other districts talk about not giving students access to email or that they create walled gardens and don’t allow communication outside their campuses. I don’t have to worry about it. If something is inappropriate, Gaggle is going to catch it.”