Glendale students' response to social media monitoring mixed

Student response to a decision by the Glendale Unified school board to hire a company to monitor students’ public posts on social networks has been mixed.

The board approved the year-long $40,500 contract with Geo Listening earlier this month to analyze posts on Twitter and elsewhere made by the district’s middle and high school students.

The company will provide officials with a daily report about how those posts relate to cyber-bullying, substance abuse, truancy, violence or possible suicide attempts.

Several students took to Twitter to express frustration and concern about the service.

One person, who tweeted under the name Meghri, asked, “What else does GUSD wanna do put cameras in our rooms?”

Another, who tweeted under the name Arayik, said, “GUSD should be smarter and start spending money on educational purposes rather than trying to stalk students.”

A tweet from a mock Twitter account using the school district’s logo and named GUSD, said: “In order to protect. We must invade. Understand.”

However, not all students found news of the monitoring concerning.

Hoover High School sophomore Mikaela Perjes said she didn’t mind Glendale Unified using the service, and didn’t find it an invasion of privacy.

“It’s [students’] choice if they want to make [their accounts] public or private,” she said.

Glendale school officials have said the service enables them to get involved when students are at risk of hurting themselves or others.

Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan said Geo Listening has already contacted school administrators regarding some incidents such as cyber-bullying and situations where students had possibly considered hurting themselves, Sheehan said.

“The administrators have been able to step in and meet with students and contact families, and provide the appropriate support needed,” he said.

A sophomore at Glendale High who declined to state her name said the district should use the money spent on the monitoring service to offer better food in the cafeteria or pay for new textbooks.

“People are going to bully people no matter what. It’s always happened,” she said. “It’s not going to end … if you monitor people online, they’re going to find another platform for that.”

When the district piloted the program for one semester last year at Glendale High, Crescenta Valley High and Hoover High, principals “were overwhelmingly supportive in keeping it,” Sheehan said. “They see it as extremely valuable, especially to the safety of the kids.”

The agreement approved this month expands the monitoring service to students attending Clark Magnet High School and the district’s four middle schools.

Marc Esplana, a Glendale High sophomore, approves of the district hiring the service, especially because it lets school officials intervene when students get bullied.

“I think it’s OK,” he said.

A parent waiting to pick up his child outside Toll Middle School student said he saw some positive aspects of keeping an eye on public posts, but he questioned paying for the service during a time of challenging budgetary constraints.

“Just imagine how many supplies that can buy for a year,” said the man, who declined to be identified. “Also, this idea of constantly being monitored doesn’t sit well. Overall, I see some positive, but I personally believe that positive is so minuscule that it completely overweighs the entire idea.”

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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