A suburban Los Angeles school district is now looking at the public postings on social media by middle and high school students, searching for possible violence, drug use, bullying, truancy and suicidal threats.
The district in Glendale, California, is paying $40,500 to a firm to monitor and report on 14,000 middle and high school students’ posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media for one year.
Though critics liken the monitoring to government stalking, school officials and their contractor say the purpose is student safety.
As classes began this fall, the district awarded the contract after it earlier paid the firm, Geo Listening, $5,000 last spring to conduct a pilot project monitoring 9,000 students at three high schools and a middle school. Among the results was a successful intervention with a student “who was speaking of ending his life” on his social media, said Chris Frydrych, CEO of the firm.
That intervention was significant because two students in the district committed suicide the past two years, said Superintendent Richard Sheehan. The suicides occurred at a time when California has reduced mental health services in schools, Sheehan said.