Mixed Reaction to Glendale, Calif., School Social Media Policy

A decision by school officials to extend the use of a social media monitoring service has some concerned about student privacy.

by Kelly Corrigan, McClatchy News Service / August 15, 2014

Parents and students weighed in Thursday on a recent decision by Glendale school officials to continue monitoring students' public social media posts this school year.

Throughout last school year, the Hermosa Beach-based company Geo Listening sent Glendale Unified emails whenever students' posts were related to bullying, suicide, vandalism or drug use, among other topics.

Officials said they were able to make early interventions with students using many of the 1,400 postings that raised red flags in Geo Listening's reports. In other cases, students' posts were only attempts to be funny.

Still, the yearlong success of the program led the Glendale Unified school board on Tuesday to spend $40,500 for Geo Listening to continue monitoring students' posts.

Some students remain indifferent to the decision because their posts are inaccessible to monitoring.
"Most people are on private," said Crescenta Valley High sophomore Carly Griffin, referring to the setting that prevents posts from being monitored.

Michael Dangah agreed that the program comes in useful to intervene with potentially suicidal students. But he doesn't think it's right when it comes to students' other activities.

"I think it's none of their business," he said.

Over the past year, Crescenta Valley student Devin Torossian said he's known of several cases where fellow students were questioned by school officials after they caught on that students were discussing fights on Facebook.

"It's kinda weird that they're stalking us in a way, but I can understand why they do it," he said. "I don't mind too much because I have nothing, really, to hide."

Crescenta Valley parent Linda Ponce said she is pleased the school district keeps an eye on students' posts.

"I'm glad they're doing it," she said. "Maybe [as parents,] we really don't know what's going on and the school can find out certain things to make us aware of it, because we don't have access. They don't add [parents] to their friend list," she said.

Fellow parent Ana Mirta Mehdikhanian also favors the idea, although other parents she knows have disagreed, saying the service is an invasion of students' privacy.

"I like that program," she said, adding that even though she often tells her daughter she trusts her, it's better have to added protection.

"We never know," she said.

Mehdikhanian said she's heard about students at Crescenta Valley High cutting themselves, eating marijuana-laced baked goods and bullying others -- all topics that school officials look out for in students' posts.

When it comes to bullying on campus, Mehdikhanian said students often give others a hard time for not having a lot of money or not wearing brand-name clothes.

Mehdikhanian's daughter told her once that she wished she could go to her school for one day and see what's happening.

"It's very sad." Mehdikhanian said.

But sophomore Matthew Carbajal said he didn't agree with school officials taking on a social-media surveillance role, and he thinks that responsibility belongs to parents.

"I think that the parents should monitor their kids," he said.

(c) 2014 the Glendale News-Press (Glendale, Calif.)