Williamson County School Officials Can Use Gaggle to Punish Students for What They Say Online

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Williamson County School System officials can, if they choose, monitor students’ online activity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and punish students if they say something unsuitable.

School administrators are the ones who decide what is and isn’t unsuitable.

As of this year, school system officials do this through a program called Gaggle.

As The Tennessee Star reported last month, school system officials set up the program to help with student safety issues.

WCS spokesman Cory Mason said this week that Gaggle monitors student accounts “for inappropriate or concerning words and images that have been placed on the WCS server.”

“Some of the things it looks for include references to drug and alcohol use, self-harm, threats, etc.; the same student behaviors school administrators have addressed for years,” Mason said in an email.

“When there is an alert, school administrators receive a notification. After reviewing the alert, school administrators then determine the course of action.”

As reported last month, Gaggle does not monitor students’ Internet usage, but it does look for any inappropriate images or texts they might download from the Internet.

County resident Claudia Henneberry, who said she no longer has kids in the school system, told The Star last month that she’s concerned, regardless.

“I just want to know who is determining what is questionable content, and how do they determine what a violation could be?” Henneberry asked.

“These things are being monitored 24/7, and I can’t imagine what will happen to a student, and there might be a criminal record for kids who did not intend to commit a crime. I think students are in great peril, and the parents need to figure out how to fight because it could end up on some sort of permanent record for their kids.”

Henneberry also said that Gaggle is affiliated with Google.

“And we all know that Google is biased,” Henneberry said.

The federal Children’s Internet Protection Act mandates that WCS protect children from accessing obscene or harmful content over the Internet, according to the school system’s website.

The WCS website also described what constitutes a violation of the required rules of students’ Internet usage.

“These items typically include situations where a student used minor profanity, insulting language or attempted to save or send provocative or inappropriate (but not pornographic) images. These are items that would typically result in a student warning,” the website said.

“Administrators are alerted of these findings. High school students receive a message directly from Gaggle for their first and second violation and school administrators are included on any violation thereafter.”

Mason did not answer The Star’s detailed questions concerning what kinds of punishment school administrators can or will carry out and whether this goes on a student’s permanent record.

Mason also did not say whether school administrators look for specific trigger words or how much this program cost the school district.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to chrisbutlerjournalist@gmail.com.
Photo “Kids on Computer” by Lucélia Ribeiro. CC BY-SA 2.0.

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Thoughts to “Williamson County School Officials Can Use Gaggle to Punish Students for What They Say Online”

  1. 83ragtop50

    Didn’t I read this a couple of weeks ago?

    Does this only apply to student accounts provided by the district? If so, it only makes sense to provide some type of monitoring.

  2. Wolf Woman

    Big Brother is watching, kids. How long before Williamson County schools start teaching 2+2=5?

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