District-Wide Social Media Eavesdropping Program Begins

The program is on the look-out for activities like cyber bullying and suicidal tendencies

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    A Southern California school district is starting the new academic year paying close attention to what its students are saying online.

    The social media "eavesdropping" program started last year as a pilot project in three schools in the Glendale Unified School District.

    District Superintendent Dr. Richard Sheehan said it worked so well, it’s now expanding to all middle and high schools in the district.

    “With modern technology, unfortunately we have to try and stay a step ahead of the kids,” Dr. Richard Sheehan said.

    “We’re not trying to hide anything, because the whole point of this is student safety.”

    The Glendale Unified School Board approved spending $40,000 to hire the Hermosa Beach company Geo Listening to monitor students’ public posts on websites like Twitter and Instagram.

    They’re on the look-out for things like cyber bullying and suicidal tendencies.

    The program was instituted after Drew Ferraro, a 15-year-old student at Crescenta Valley High School, jumped to his death from the roof of the school last year.

    The superintendent says he believes the eavesdropping program has helped save other kids from trouble by intervening early when disturbing posts were made.

    But some students are not happy about it.

    “I think it’s a bad idea because everybody deserves their privacy,” said Crescenta Valley High School student Matilda Sinany.

    The 14-year-old Sinany is among the students at Crescenta Valley High School who don’t want school officials eavesdropping on their Internet activities.

    Some parents support the idea.

    “I think it can nip it in the bud if someone is being attacked or something negative is being said about a student,” Felicia Collins said.

    Some students started a Facebook page called Remove Your School – instructing students to remove the name of their school so their posts can’t be tracked.

    “If you think it’s a problem, just put your posts private so no one else can see them besides your friends,” student Michael Aguiar said.

    NBC4 reached out to the monitoring company Geo Listening. The CEO did not want to appear on camera, but said there is no invasion of privacy because they only monitor public posts

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