50ºF

Controversial program monitors student activity on computers to prevent bullying, violence, suicides

Gaggle scans all electronic activity on school computers

HAZEL PARK, Mich. – A controversial new program that tracks and monitors every move students make on their computers is becoming more prominent in schools.

The program is called “Gaggle,” and its goal is to prevent bullying, violence and suicides. Some believe it goes too far, though.

Hazel Park Schools Superintendent Dr. Amy Kruppe said the district is on a trial with Gaggle, which scans all electronic activity on the schools’ computers and accounts, looking for signs of trouble.

“If we save one life or stop a fight, then it’s done its job,” Kruppe said.

The software works by looking for bullying, violence or suicidal thoughts and notifying administrators when it flags a problem.

Gaggle is being used in nearly 1,400 districts throughout the country, and it examined about 4 billion documents last year.

There is push back, especially from the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues the program is invasive surveillance. But Gaggle officials say the program looks at school computers and accounts, not personal ones.

Gaggle officials said the program prevented 722 suicides last year. But it comes at a cost, and many districts can’t afford it.

There are 31 schools in Michigan -- including three in Metro Detroit -- that use the program.


About the Authors: