News has come to light this weekend that the Huntsville Alabama School District investigated the social media accounts of around 600 students since January, out of a total of 24,000 students in the district. While small on a percentage basis, 600 is a big number.
Of the 600 students, 14 were expelled on what were reported to be firearms, drug or sexual issues. While each appears to have been an isolated incident, there is clearly a pattern of bad behavior in Huntsville schools being memorialized on social media. Parents take note – is it really that different in your district?
The program in Huntsville called SAFe, short for Students Against Fear, is designed to protect the school and students from danger, and relies on tips from students and teachers to conduct investigations. This doesn’t appear to be a targeted with hunt – tipsters are supplying the information.
The Alabama media is characterizing the program as being “spying” or “secret monitoring” but we think that is nonsense. There is no indication that the district has been looking at anything other than public posts, which are clearly fair game as far as we and prevailing law as we understand it are concerned.
According to board member Laurie McCaulley:
“These numbers tell me that I have kids with some major issues. What I think the board is doing is trying to provide a safe environment for all children.”
Some residents of the district have other objections with the SAFe program, including:
- A much higher percentage of those suspended were black students than is the case with the district overall
- Fees paid to the outside contractor who oversees SAFe run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars
We’ll refrain from weighing in on either of these two issues, but it is clear that parents are in at least some cases unable to deal with the realities of what their kids are doing online. This is not new.
With the ThirdParent solution, parents, after having provided us with select information (no account names or passwords!), are provided with a confidential look at all of a teen’s potentially troublesome public social media posts and information. Armed with this information, parents can both guide more responsible behavior, and correct problems before they result in discipline or expulsion.
We talk to plenty of parents who are concerned with how their kids’ online activity looks to others, but lack the resources to investigate and deal with it themselves. This is why we started ThirdParent.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.