Bayfield School District is monitoring student activities online this year through new software, and it has allowed staff to successfully intervene with students in crisis.
Gaggle tracks information students are sending and receiving through Google products, such as Gmail and Google docs, and alerts staff to inappropriate material referencing, self-harm, suicide, bullying and violence, among other problem behaviors, said Bayfield Superintendent Kevin Aten. The software will also detect inappropriate photos.
Gaggle has been adopted by schools nationwide, and it helped school staff members intervene with 542 students who were actively planning or attempting suicide in the 2017-18 school year, according to a news release from the company.
The district installed Gaggle during the fall semester, and since then, the software has flagged legitimate concerns about twice a week, Aten said.
Most concerns have to do with the social-emotional well-being of middle school students, he said.
Gaggle functions as an early-warning system, allowing district officials to inform and involve families if issues arise, he said.
The district has involved professional mental health providers only a few times, he said.
When Gaggle alerts staff to inappropriate material, it is not treated as a disciplinary concern, he said.
“A lot of these kids are in crisis, and they need understanding adults. They need arms wrapped around them, not fingers pointed in their face,” Aten said.
Aten introduced the software because he had used it while at the school district in Estes Park, where he was director of innovation, instruction and technology.
Bayfield spends $4,000 a year for Gaggle to monitor computers in school buildings and the Chromebooks used by students in middle school and high school. Gaggle provides monitoring 24/7, and for serious concerns, a member of Gaggle staff will call district officials.
The software works well for Bayfield schools because all students rely on Google products. For example, students must login to their Google accounts to use the computers, and they use Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word.
The district manages privacy concerns by informing students and parents that students should not expect privacy when using school technology, Aten said.
The Ignacio School District uses filters to protect students from accessing inappropriate material online, however, the district does not employ an alert system similar to Gaggle, Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto said.