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Monitoring students online

by HALEY MILLAN Editor-in-chief

A school district in Los Angeles, California started a debate that is relevant to all students and parents, even to us here in Monroe; the district hired a firm to monitor students’ online activity on social media sites to ensure safety.

Some people are outraged. They claim that the district and firm are violating the students’ rights of privacy. Others, however, agree with the new monitoring that is put in place.

The school district that created all of this hype is located in Glendale, California. They are paying the firm to read through posts of students on sites like Twitter and Facebook. School officials declare that the monitoring company, Geo Listing, is checking to make sure that there are no signs of violence, bullying, drug use, suicide threats, cell phone use during class, and even truancy (not coming to school without a valid excuse).

The superintendent of the district, Richard Sheehan, states that during a trial project of Geo Listing, they held an intervention for a student “who was speaking of ending his life” on his posts online. Sheehan believes monitoring online activity will continue to be successful in the future.

Here at Monroe Township High School, students can relate to being monitored online. When students received their iPads this past September, instead of the internet browser Safari, the iPads were replaced with Safe Browser. Safe Browser is also an internet browser; however, students must sign into a server where all of their activity can be tracked by the school, even when the iPads are used at home.

The debate breaks down into two sides, each with strong, valid arguments.

Those who are against schools monitoring online activity believe that it is not the school’s job to watch over students, but the jobs of the students’ parents. They also argue that the school will be quick to assume a student is doing something wrong based on vague posts. Children who are innocent may be investigated with no real reason.

In addition, it does not sit will with some people that schools, which are part of the government, have even more insight into the private lives of children over the age of 13.

Senior Brandon Hyman says, “I hate how we have to be baby-sat by the school. I don’t think it’s their job to watch what were doing outside of school, it’s really none of their business if we’re not hurting anybody.”

However, the other side, which approves of the new monitoring system, thinks that it will have a positive influence. Pulling examples from the Glendale district, a life has been saved thanks to Geo Listing, and schools may be able to prevent any further wrongdoings or conflicts.

There has not been any disciplinary action taken against a student yet.

Also, the students who are being watched have public profiles. The firm does not hack into any private Twitter or Facebook accounts. Therefore, there is no real invasion of privacy.

Students at Glendale were first outraged when they learned they were being monitored, but after a while, nothing changed, and they are now fine with the system.

“I don’t mind the school monitoring my iPad. It’s not like I use it for anything I’m not supposed to be doing, only for school-related things. So it really doesn’t affect me,” says senior Danielle Paxton.

In 2011, there was a legal case in Florida where parents sued their school district after their daughter committed suicide. The young girl committed suicide after topless pictures she sent to a boy went viral around the student body. The parents believed the school did not take enough action when her daughter showed suicidal signs. Suicide prevention has been a main concern for school districts across the nation as its rates have been rising.

Schools do not need to inform students or parents if they are monitoring student activity online. As long as the students are over 13 years of age, schools do not need parent consent.

As for the Geo Listing firm, they have a confidentiality agreement with their clients. Therefore, there may be hundreds of schools secretly monitoring their students.

Whether you agree or disagree with schools watching over online activity, it seems as if it is here to stay. The firms are not doing anything illegal, as long as they do not hack into private profiles. As a student, if you are uncomfortable with the school reading your posts, make sure your accounts are private.

Do you think schools should monitor their students’ social media profiles?

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