Texas School District to Scan Children's Devices

A school district in East Texas will start scanning digital devices used by its students to find out what they have been saying to and about one another. 

Longview Independent School District (Longview ISD) has partnered with technology and web-hosting company Gaggle to scour district-issued devices and student emails for a particular set of keywords. With Gaggle’s software, the keywords can be detected and reported to school administrators. 

The district says that the purpose of the virtual searches is to dissuade cyber-bullies and identify students with mental health issues. 

Francisco Rojas, public information officer for Longview ISD, told CBS: “Mental health issues are on the rise. And we have to keep up with it; we have to be proactive instead of reactive.”

The Longview Independent School District Board approved an expenditure of $60,000 for the Gaggle software system of Trustees during a meeting held on November 8. Funding for the software was gathered from the administrative and pupil services budget. 

In a statement released November 8, the Longview ISD trustees said: “The software protects students and ensures their well-being by informing administrators of incidents of cyber-bullying, self-harm, threats, or any inappropriate behavior taking place on district-issued devices and student emails.”

Gaggle scanning will begin in the Longview ISD middle and high schools on December 9. The company says its software scanning system is in use in over 1,500 districts. 

“We expect this to be a tool available to help our students and staff 24/7 who might be dealing or battling with mental health issues,” said Rojas. “We expect this to be an extra pair of eyes, an extra pair of ears and hands for our school district.”

According to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center, more than 59% of teenagers in the United States have experienced bullying or harassment online. Name-calling was the most common type of harassment, and it was experienced by 42% of teens.

Around a quarter of teens said that they had been sent unrequested sexually explicit images, while around a third said that false rumors had been started about them online. 

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