Friday, September 20, 2013

Geo Listening in California Schools- Spying, Monitoring, and Who are They?

The Glendale, California school district recently spent $40,500 to "monitor and report on 14,000 middle and high school students' posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media for one year."  This in effort to improve student safety.

Last Spring the district paid the firm $5000 to conduct a like pilot project at three high schools.  As mental health services to schools have been decreased in the State (!!) this district saw an increase in suicides.  As a result of this monitoring, the firm was able to target a student and prevent another possible suicide according to the CEO of this firm.

"'His firm [Frydrych's] is about to expand schools' monitoring capacity with a new smartphone app that allows students and parents to anonymously report to and correspond with school officials about conduct violations.
"Honestly, we're not spying on kids. Can we focus back on the problem: The problem is we're not listening effectively," Frydrych said. "And we're shifting that.'"  Frydych "'says he expects to be monitoring about 3,000 schools worldwide by the end of the year.'"
Geo Listening also monitors whether students are talking about drug use, cutting class or violence. The firm even ascertains whether pupils are using their smartphone during class time, Frydrych said.'''  While no one has ever been disciplined as a result of this system, a teacher was suspended for teaching a student how to post to Twitter using their cell resulting in a photo with what appeared to be a rifle.  BTW, this website was newly formed (and hosted) in May, 2012 via GoDaddy- not exactly the bigtime here.  It gives the previous Ca. (now in Fla.) address & I'm betting that all the contact info is the CEO.

The local PTA has expressed some concerns about this "monitoring" and the Super will address them at the next meeting.  What they ought to do is ask for his certificate of compliance from the state of California showing that he is actually, like, legal & paying taxes.  Or even Florida, where he now lives.  You'd think the school committee would have checked him out- I did.  Does he carry any liability coverage, for instance.  None of the companies this individual says that he owns are registered in either state according to state databases, so there is darn little info on this co.- makes me leary  His self-reported degrees are from Emory & Henry College, Va. in Business Management and Sociology.  Sounds like a darn good salesman to me. Frydrych hopes to be working with 3,000 (!) schools this year. 

What do you think about this? They could/should hire more guidance couselors to actually, like, COUNSEL.  More parental workshops could be offered to teach parents not only to monitor but to recognize behaviors requiring intervention.  Feds/State should be offering more $ support, of course. And perhaps these monies could also be used for...more teachers, instructional materials, better libraries, etc.

Let's face it, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is spying by people you don't know.  If parents do it themselves- it's monitoring.  And smart!   

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