GUSD hires contractor to monitor student social media

The GUSD policy of monitoring students’ social networks has received mixed reactions among students and parents of the Glendale District. Clark Magnet High School has recently joined the District after about a year after the policy was put into effect. Geo Listening was hired to watch over student content on social media this past school year, one year after a student of Crescenta Valley High School committed suicide.

Teachers and students of Clark have varying views on the new policy. Senior English teacher Stephanie Sajjadieh disagrees with the District’s decision to monitor students activity on a daily basis. “I understand the reasoning behind the decision, and although the idea might be framed as a form of student protection, I fear that it sets a dangerous precedent that could result in a violation of civil liberties,” Sajjadieh said.

Senior Sheina Sakhrani finds the program to be appropriate and necessary. “What they are doing is not an invasion of privacy because they are looking at things that are public,’” she said. “If you are posting something and it is public, if random people in another country are looking at it, they also have the right to. You are letting them do that.” Sakhrani says that as long as the District does not cross the line between student safety and personal, social interference, the policy is legitimate.

Principal Doug Dall says the policy serves to protect its students, not to undermine their privacy or freedom of speech or privacy. “They’re not tapping your phone, they don’t have a microphone under your bed at home,” he said. “They’re sampling stuff that is public record and public knowledge.”

 We have to find a way how kids in this society communicate now, to provide the help.”

— Mr. Maurice James

The school has recently joined Geo Listening, which has been going on in other schools in the district. “We haven’t had a lot of experience because we just went online this year, we weren’t a part of it last year,” Dall said. “This was going on last year, just not here.”

Assistant Principal Maurice James approves of the policy, and says it is important to be aware of what is going on around the school and to reach out for help whenever necessary. “Find an adult on this campus that you can reach out to and feel a connection to that you can come and talk to,” James said.

I fear that it sets a dangerous precedent that could result in a violation of civil liberties.”

— Mrs. Stephanie Sajjadieh

James said that often times a student will not share or discuss their problems, but rather disappear behind social media as a way to vent their feelings or concerns. “Sometimes we hide behind a technology device; it is kind of like a safety net. It doesn’t help you. We have to find a way how kids in this society communicate now, to provide the help,” James said.

The Huffington Post stated in its article, posted about a month ago, that the District’s intentions are directed strictly towards the well-being of their students. “The whole purpose is student safety. Basically, it just monitors for keywords where if a student is considering harming themselves, harming someone else,” said GUSD Superintendent Richard Sheehan, according to Huffington Post.

The company, Geo Listening, has explained that they will only watch over public social sites. “All of the individual posts we monitor on social media networks are already made public by the students themselves. Therefore, no privacy is violated,” the company told ABC Los Angeles, according to the Huffington Post.

In the end, the policy stands to help its students, Dall said. “It gives us the opportunity to talk to students and make sure if they’re okay.”

The superintendent has not been able to comment on the issue at the time of this article’s publication.