As many people remember, in January an Ecker Hill teacher was charged with felony counts for “alleged inappropriate communications with a student that spanned approximately four months.” According to the Park Record, “The allegations against [the teacher] first came to light earlier this month when the accuser, a student at Ecker Hill, showed a school counselor a series of sexually explicit emails [the teacher] had allegedly sent him.” At the time there was a justified outcry from the community over how something like this could happen and go unnoticed for so long. In the next few days a new system will come online to help prevent something like what allegedly happened from happening again at Park City schools.
The school district has subscribed to a service called Gaggle. While the name doesn’t sound serious, their business is. Gaggle provides a monitoring solution that scans email, attachments, calendars, and documents looking for pornography, inappropriate images, and certain words. According to the School District’s press release, “Once an item is flagged, Gaggle Student Safety Representatives review content and apply district-approved intervention procedures.” Perhaps most importantly, this solutions watches over both students and staff for signs of mis conduct.
According to Associate Superintendent of Human Resources, Dr. Tim McConnell, “Contracting with Gaggle Safety Management will expand the district’s current capabilities to monitor and filter content. Gaggle will not only alert us to inappropriate content, it will also allow us to be stay on top of issues like bullying, threats of violence and self-harm. I want to give credit to our Technology Director, Joe Stout, for finding this service and working out the details to have it implemented.“
In addition to looking at new email coming in, we wanted to understand if Gaggle will be used to look at older emails to find cases where inappropriate conduct may have taken place in the past. Dr McConnell responded that “Gaggle won’t go retroactively, but we do have an email archiver. As a part of stepping up our efforts, we did look for inappropriate content based on sexually oriented verbiage – which would have included attachments. Every email in and out has been archived for approximately 8 years – over 33 million emails – and they will continue to be archived.”
We at the Park Rag are glad that personnel within the school district have already thought of how to handle historical email and have taken steps to understand whether any issues took place. It demonstrates that the school district took the matter very seriously. It will be interesting to see if any additional charges are pressed.
While no software product can guarantee that our children will not become victims of sexual predators, systems like Gaggle can both prevent predators from taking action due to the likelihood they will be caught and catch those despicable persons that try to do harm our children.