Q&A With Gaggle: Managing Student Safety

Tell us about Gaggle and your unique approach to prevention.

Our mission is to ensure the safety and well-being of students and schools by leveraging people and technology. The pioneer in helping K-12 districts manage student safety on school-provided technology, Gaggle supports districts in proactively identifying students who are struggling. Our effective combination of technology and safety professionals offers real-time analysis and review of students’ use of school-issued accounts in order to protect students from harming themselves or others—before it’s too late.

What’s an example of a success story you’ve heard from a client?

East Irondequoit Central School District in New York implemented Gaggle hoping to safeguard students in the virtual environment. After pornographic content was sent to a sixth-grade student’s school-issued iPad, the district supported local law enforcement in a months-long investigation that resulted in the arrest and conviction of a child predator in Michigan.

Gaggle intercepted the file in question to ensure that the 11-year-old student wouldn’t be exposed to the content. Gaggle not only stops inappropriate messages like this from reaching students, but our student safety service also blocks the content from the district server, placing it into quarantine to ensure it won’t be in the system. After receiving the alert from Gaggle, the district took action, handing over the file to the police. This evidence helped put a dangerous man—who had also been contacting kids in his area—behind bars, preventing him from preying on more children going forward.

Since remote learning began in the wake of COVID-19, what trends have you noticed? What does the data say? 

Unfortunately, the levels of student stress and anxiety are unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Pandemic fears, quarantine orders, and the uncertainty around whether or not learning will be in-person or remote has resulted in today’s students struggling more than ever.

We’ve seen a significant increase in student safety incidents in the first few months of the school year, including noticeable spikes across four of our incident categories. So far this school year, we’ve recorded an 83% increase in content flagged as Suicide & Self-Harm compared to the same time frame last year. This uptick in incidents of Suicide & Self-Harm has also led to an increase in student lives saved. In fact, Gaggle has recorded a 53% increase in lives saved compared to the same time frame last school year.

We’re also seeing a significant number of incidents happening after school hours and overnight, when educators aren’t actively watching what students are posting online. When looking at the most concerning incidents—those requiring immediate action to ensure student safety and well-being—42% occurred outside typical school hours. This after-hours activity is causing a significant increase in stress for educators, highlighting the importance of around-the-clock monitoring in digital environments.

How is the pandemic affecting younger students?

Alarmingly, we’ve seen a shift in activity at the elementary level this year. During the first few months of the 2020–21 school year, 13% of all incidents were at the elementary level, compared to just 4% during the same time frame of the 2019–20 school year. Lives saved for this age group has also shown a staggering increase—18% of lives saved were at the elementary level, up from just 2% of lives saved during the same period in 2019.

It may be surprising for some to learn the young age at which incidents are occurring and students need help. Not only are mental health conditions rising across the board among K-12 students, they are also growing among elementary school students.

What advice do you have for administrators and teachers who might notice signs of emotional distress in a student?

Today’s climate has placed additional stressors on students, so it’s important to implement critical services to help support them as much as possible. Many districts have partnered with Gaggle for years to protect students and identify those who may be experiencing mental health struggles, and this year, we’ve gone beyond identifying students in crisis to addressing the crisis head-on. Our new Gaggle Therapy service partners licensed therapists with students for ongoing teletherapy sessions.

Having someone students can build a healthy relationship with is crucial to their development and can lead to improved outcomes in conflict resolution, communication, and self-esteem. Gaggle Therapy offers a new level of support and protection for students and their mental well-being while eliminating gaps in access to therapy for students regardless of background or economic circumstance. Plus, teletherapy services are available to students whether schools are operating in-person, on a hybrid model, or entirely online.

Thank you, Paget, for taking the time to tell us more about Gaggle! For more information, visit their website at Gaggle.net

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