GUSD: Big Bother

In an effort to combat cyber-bullying, truancy and substance abuse, Glendale Unified School has recently opted to pay a yearlong $40,500 contract with Geo Listening to monitor and analyze posts made by middle and high school students in social networking sites.

I know the first thing that pops into most of your heads: “Ugh, why is Dr. Sheehan invading my privacy and seeing everything I post?”

Well, contrary to what most believe, this is not a privacy issue. The fact is if you have a public account, anything you post can be seen by anyone at any time. Although the recent Glendale News-Press story covering this issue did not go into specifics on public versus private profiles, it’s a safe bet that if you are concerned about your security, having a private profile should ease the worry of strangers sifting through your summer shenanigan selfies or twitter rants.

However, I don’t think that this plan is all fine and dandy either. To people who aren’t students or faculty, I’m sure that this idealistic plan sounds like a no-brainer: “Let’s watch those kids to make sure they’re not in any trouble.”

However, how many of them would still be on board, if this situation were applied to a realistic work situation — which is what school is supposed to prepare you for, right? What if a corporate boss says that he wants to make sure all his workers are doing their work, so he pays for a program to monitor their social media accounts? Sure, if they’re friends on Facebook, I know that this point is rendered moot, but still how comfortable would those workers feel knowing that their major form of free expression is being policed by their main authority figure? My point is that in order to combat issues like bullying, schools must foster a line of trust and communication between students and school administration instead of creating a haze of voyeurism.

Well, contrary to what most believe, this is not a privacy issue. The fact is if you have a public account, anything you post can be seen by anyone at any time.”

— David Olvera-Sanchez

Additionally, there comes the issue of money distribution. I, like many others, was completely shocked to learn that the district spent $40,500 to afford this yearly contract. Instead of funding class book sets, new ROP classes, or better cafeteria food, GUSD is more interested in making sure that in all aspects of your social media, you are a standup young adult.

When did school become charm school? Or, a better question: Where are the parents? People’s tax dollars should not be going towards monitoring your teen’s social life. Sorry parents, that’s your job.

This leads to my last criticism of this decision: Where is the line drawn? If I cuss on my status or tweet about sneaking out to go to the Americana with friends, will the District take disciplinary action towards me or notify my parents? Will I get dress coded for not wearing a collared shirt for a picture I posted on Instagram over the weekend?

Sure, the last one is a bit of a stretch I’ll admit, but this type of monitoring is a slippery slope of what-if’s. While trying to create a school environment free of negative aspects like bullying, GUSD instead has created an ambiance of mistrust and uncertainty.

At the end of the day, students are going to do what they want to do (be it name calling, drugs, truancy, etc.) and find a way over any hindrances or monitoring. Consequently, I think the district’s time and finances would be better spent in holding students responsible for what they do at school and preventing those actions from occurring at school and disrupting a school environment. Outside of that scope, it’s up to parents or law enforcement to enforce the rules.

Although I understand that the district is trying to think of a way to combat cyber-bullying and making sure that their students aren’t being detrimental to society, GUSD needs to put education first. GUSD should encourage students to take the initiative to report problems they’ve either experienced or witnessed, and not babysit them into being well-behaved.