How Much Should Tech See?

 

This is a follow-up to this article, but can also be read as a standalone piece.

 

Celine Biron remembers a time in eighth grade when an online conflict brought real consequences at school.

“Two girls didn’t like another girl,” Biron said. “They made threats to her and her older sister at school and later that night on Facebook they harassed the girl. They told her to kill herself and that she is lucky that they didn’t ‘beat her ass’ earlier that day.”

“Her sister commented on the status and told the girls to stop what they were doing and one replied with. ‘I’ll see you on Monday… Good luck.’”

Finally, a third party intervened.

“An anonymous person sent in screenshots of the online conversation to the administration,” said Biron. “Both of the girls were suspended, and one of them was later expelled.”

That was four years ago. Today, administration doesn’t need to be tipped off about students behaving badly online: they have the tools to look into students’ digital lives.

“I think it’s important that we have a way to monitor use and to enter when an issue does happen,” said principal Steven Dellinger-Pate.

Dellinger-Pate highlighted some of the issues U-32’s online culture encompasses. “Cyberbullying, harassment, and then there’s the stuff that kids talk about online, such as parties.” Dellinger-Pate said these are some of the main incidents that administration has to step in to deal with. With more reports of cyberbullying this year than ever before, this is one of the school’s main tech security issues. A nationwide survey by Intel Security found that 87% of youth have experienced cyberbullying.

Many students assume that administration is actively probing the data collected, but “It’s usually when something has happened,” said Dellinger-Pate. “We have the ability to go back and verify and to see exactly what it is.” When the administration catches a student behaving badly, online consequences follow. “Sometimes a student does have to lose internet privileges,” said Dellinger-Pate.

Among students, there are mixed feelings about the surveillance, “If the administration doesn’t have a reason to monitor someone, they shouldn’t,” said junior Josh Farber. “I get it if someone has been in trouble before, but I think it’s a little excessive if they are doing it to everybody.”

“You have to realize that the student google accounts are linked to the school,” said Dellinger-Pate. “Google email and accounts are part of your school issued items. We try to tell people this at the beginning of the year. The expectation is that students use their emails for school reasons only. Your access to the network is a privilege, it is not your right.”