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US school district launches social media snooping programme

Press Trust of India  |  Los Angeles 

An "eavesdropping" programme has been launched in a US school district to monitor all students' social media activity and keep tabs on cyber bullying and suicidal tendencies.

The Southern California school district is starting the new academic year paying close attention to what its students are saying online.

The social media "eavesdropping" programme was started last year as a pilot project in three schools in the Glendale Unified School District.

District Superintendent Dr Richard Sheehan said it worked so well, it is now expanding to all middle and high schools in the district.

"With modern technology, unfortunately we have to try and stay a step ahead of the kids," Sheehan said.

"We're not trying to hide anything, because the whole point of this is student safety," he said.

The Glendale Unified School Board approved spending USD 40,000 to hire a company to monitor students' public posts on websites like Twitter and Instagram.

They are on the look-out for things like cyber bullying and suicidal tendencies, the NBC reported.

The programme was instituted after Drew Ferraro, a 15-year-old student at Crescenta Valley High School, jumped to his death from the roof of the school last year.

The superintendent said that he believes the eavesdropping programme has helped save other kids from trouble by intervening early when disturbing posts were made.

But some students are not happy about it. "I think it's a bad idea because everybody deserves their privacy," said Crescenta Valley High School student Matilda Sinany.

The 14-year-old Sinany is among the students at Crescenta Valley High School who do not want school officials eavesdropping on their Internet activities.

However, some parents have supported the idea.

"I think it can nip it in the bud if someone is being attacked or something negative is being said about a student," Felicia Collins said.

Some students have started a Facebook page called 'Remove Your School', instructing students to remove the name of their school so their posts cannot be tracked.

First Published: Wed, August 28 2013. 16:45 IST