School District Is Making Positive Steps on Preventing Improper Communication Between Students and Staff
The Park City School District issued a press release yesterday regarding steps they are taking in the wake of the Derek Spitzer issue. Three of these actions are technology related and will likely help both prevent future issues, limit ongoing issues, and perhaps catch any teachers/staff who may be currently having inappropriate communications with students. Specifically, the district says they are:
- Going to use their Google email system’s filtering capability to be alerted in the case of inappropriate contact
- Investigate whether their current email archiving system can also look for inappropriate content
- In the process of a complete technology review
These are positive first steps. While I won’t bring up the question of whether these steps should have been in place all along, the district should be commended on moving forward quickly with a plan that not only lets the public know that the district is concerned, but will also likely be very effective.
Why do I believe it will be effective?
First, my company uses Google’s Email Filtering technology and Google is good at what it does. If there is inappropriate contact going on, and the district sets it up in a way that is designed to catch people (i.e. they aren’t just looking for the word sex… but s*x and s.e.x. and S E X and all the ways that a perpetrator would try to mask what they are doing) it should do the job effectively.
Second, all teachers and faculty will know this technology is in place. We call it the Santa Claus effect (He knows when you are sleeping and he knows when you’re awake… he is watching). It may just provide enough of a deterrent, to stop someone from doing what they aren’t supposed to do. At a minimum, it will force them to other avenues where they may be caught as well.
Third, they absolutely need to find a way to utilize their email archiving program to test historical email for perpetrators. This will likely shed light on whether this is (or has been) a prevalent problem in the district. Likewise, it could cause current perpetrators to stop their actions (out of fear of probably being caught). Also, it appears there were allegedly 500 emails sent back and forth between the Ecker Hill Middle School Teacher (Derek Spitzer) and the student. This should provide examples of what needs to be looked at both historically and going forward.
This has been a tragic situation. Every time I think about it, it makes me sick. However, if there is a any positive out of what happened to the Ecker Hill Middle School student, at least the district is taking steps that will hopefully limit this happening in the future and catch additional people who are harming our children today. I know it doesn’t make up for what occurred, but at least the district moving in the right direction that will likely help other kids in the future.
In last week’s meeting at Ecker Hill Middle with parents on this very topic, Dr. Conley stated that Google did not allow the district to incorporate email filters, which was why the district was looking at other vendors after the Spitzer debacle. The fact that Google did not allow filters was a contributing factor in this case.
But more to your point, yes, it is a good thing for the district to jump on this and get it right, whether or facts are available in a timely fashion.
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