The Talon

SFSD improves students’ online safety through new online safety program

Mary Hammarlund, Staff Writer

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Ensuring student safety online is an important responsibility for any school district. Specifically at Sheboygan Falls School District (SFSD), student online safety monitors potential bullying, self-harm, harm to others, and inappropriate language and pictures. SFSD has taken extensive measures in order to keep students safe online. A few programs have been implemented in order to track student activity, but until now, there was no program used to scan students’ Google Drives for inappropriate content. Google Drive is the primary file storage system used by SFSD to allow students to store and access their independent files. In order to combat this problem, the district has decided to purchase and implement a new software known as Gaggle.

According to gaggle.net, Gaggle has been providing safe online learning tools for the K-12 market since its creation in 1998. Their focus is and always has been student safety, giving educators the confidence to allow learners to take advantage of current tools for productivity, collaboration, and communication. Josh Schuren, SFSD’s Network Administrator, explains some of the many features Gaggle provides for schools: Gaggle’s algorithms look for inappropriate language and language that would indicate one’s intent to harm themselves or others. The software also scans images for skin tones, which may be an indication of pornography.

The district has made other implementations prior to Gaggle to protect students online. For example, Aristotle was introduced and is still being used in order to filter web content and track individual keystrokes. Another program, Auditor from Securly, is also being used to scan students’ email accounts for language indicating self-harm, the intent to harm others, and language that indicates cyber-bullying.  While these programs provide student online safety, SFSD is using Gaggle to continue ensuring this safety at a higher level. With Gaggle, “Trained tech professionals evaluate content 24/7/365,” explained Luke Goral, Principal of Sheboygan Falls High School. With these programs, staff members are notified when content is flagged by any of this implemented software. If the flagged content generates a great amount of concern, technology professionals are able to alert school officials or contact the school resource officer to address the concerns.

This new software program was introduced when SFSD met their goal of providing every student with their own device at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. “Given our 1:1 device implementation, I believe the extra layer of monitoring our students’ online work is a great peace of mind,” said Mary Lofy, the district’s Director of Instruction.  “It’s not only inappropriate use we are monitoring, but also reports of students wanting to hurt themselves or others. It is our job under the Children’s Internet Protection Act, or CIPA, to protect students while they are at school and using our district-issued devices.”

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SFSD improves students’ online safety through new online safety program