Glendale Unified School District in Southern California hired outside company Geo Listening recently to search through social media sites commonly used by students, a move the district says is in the interest of student safety.
The district decided to implement the program after 15-year-old Drew Ferraro jumped off the roof of Crescenta Valley High School to his death.
“We’re not trying to hide anything,” District Superintendent Dr. Richard Sheehan said, “because the whole point of this is student safety.”
Geo Listening specializes in monitoring kids’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube feeds. On its website, the company says students are already asking for help by posting publicly to social media sites, and that searching through public records does not violate student privacy.
The goal of Geo Listening’s service is preventative, seeking to provide timely information before bullying, self-harm, vandalism, substance abuse or truancy become a problem.
The service does not include searches through SMS, MMS, email, phone calls or voicemail.
“I think it’s a bad idea,” Crescenta Valley High School student Matilda Sinany said. “Everybody deserves their privacy."
A group of students who disagree with the program have begun a Facebook page called Remove Your School, encouraging students to remove their school name from their profile pages so posts can’t be tracked.
Glendale District plans to spend $40,000 in the coming year on the new program.