For Yorkville Community Unit School District 115 in Illinois, adopting a new student safety platform goes beyond just knowing what students are doing on their Google accounts; it can even save lives. “There are students who are alive today because of Gaggle,” said Ryan Adkins, Director of Technology.
Thanks to the district’s student safety management platform, administrators are able to quickly intervene, reach out to the students’ parents, inform them about the conversations that are taking place, and get the students the help they need. “We are fortunate to be able to get immediate emergency assistance for students in crisis after being notified of issues through Gaggle alerts,” said Mr. Adkins.
Since implementing Gaggle, Yorkville CUSD 115 has been alerted to about six different instances of “legitimate concern” that it may have otherwise been unaware of. A 1:1 district for grades 4-12, it has put processes in place whereby social workers or administration immediately get involved in potentially problematic situations.
“Notifications happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” said Mr. Adkins, who himself has stepped in to alert parents of potentially harmful situations concerning their children. “I had to call a student’s mother at 2:30AM and explain that Gaggle flagged something that she needed to look into,” he recalled.
“Regardless of the hour of the day, if we feel a threat is imminent,” Mr. Adkins continued, “we’re calling parents and alerting law enforcement as needed.”
Yorkville CUSD 115 adopted Gaggle three years ago after deploying a 1:1 computer initiative and fielding community member and parent concerns about how students’ digital usage would be monitored. “We started looking for software that could monitor the email and document collaboration taking place in Google Docs,” said Mr. Adkins. “At the time, our top focus was on how to monitor concerns related to the potential for cyberbullying.”
And with that, the district started looking at what products were available on the market to help it achieve those goals. “We understood how we wanted the software to work and how we felt it should work, and Gaggle checked all of those boxes,” Mr. Adkins explained, adding that Gaggle’s customer service support and agents (who share the high-level alerts) are both second to none.
“I’ve been doing this now for almost 16 years,” Mr. Adkins said, “and it’s the first time that I can say that a software company that I’ve worked with has pretty much followed through on everything it told us during its sales pitch.”
Early on, the district focused on monitoring Google accounts for profanity and inappropriate images in Google Drive. Mr. Adkins said the student safety platform has performed well beyond expectations by not only catching profanity, but also slang words or abbreviations that are being used in lieu of swearing. “If you were to cut my budget tomorrow and tell me that I can only have one piece of software in place,” he said, “10 out of 10 times, I’d say it would have to be Gaggle.”
Acknowledging that today’s digital natives have a knack for circumventing rules, blocks, and other systems put in place for their own good, Mr. Adkins said Gaggle gives the district a powerful tool for keeping students safe online. “We do our best to manage the issues that we’re aware of, but it’s the issues that we don’t know—and situations in which we have to be on our toes and react quickly—where we need these types of partnerships,” said Mr. Adkins. “We just can’t do it on our own and with Gaggle in place, we don’t have to.”