Parents voice concerns about HSV schools' social media program
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Parents are speaking out on Huntsville Schools' program to watch what kids are posting online.The district is keeping an eye on student social media pages looking for threats of violence.
They said it is necessary to keep students safe.
Parents said anything involving weapons or threats of injury concerns them. If the school is able to use the monitoring program as a proactive approach to stop it, they're on board.
However, parents worry the school system may use other things they find against their child, even if it is something small or a non-violent post.
Wednesday, the superintendent assured the public that they will not be doing that.
One parent said while the program does have it's benefits, she thought parents need to be kept in the loop.
"I would hate to think that a school would take it upon themselves without my input as a parent. I think that should be a group decision. I would want to be called in, have them show me what they found, discuss it as adults, and set a course of action. And then call my child in."
Some said monitoring social media accounts at home could alleviate the need for school officials to do it.
The majority of parents we spoke to said they think monitoring social media is a great thing - they just want to be the ones to do it, or at least be involved or notified of the school program.
The school district said the reason they didn't tell parents is because it would undermine the program.
The superintendent said school board members weren't notified because then they wouldn't be able to make a unbiased decision regarding discipline for students being punished because of a post.
The school district said they are looking for "serious threats" of violence towards students, faculty or schools themselves.
Parents we spoke to said if all parents kept a close eye on their own children, the school system wouldn't have to. They said it is ok to snoop when their under age and under your roof.
"Everything they put on the computer, everything they put on Facebook, what ever the case, I monitor," said Vivian Purvis. "I suggest to others to do the same."
"Children lack the ability to anticipate consequences," said Stacie Acquistapace. "Especially when they are in their teen years... it is our responsibility as parents."
Most other schools we spoke to said they leave that responsibility up to the parents.
However, if any school district is alerted to a threat of violence -- they will of course take immediate action to keep students safe.
Florence City Schools said they monitor what students do using school technology and wi-fi, but let parents monitor personal accounts.
They also said they actively teach students how to be smart, good users of technology and social media.
Madison City Schools said they are proactive by encouraging strong relationships between students and School resource officers as well as utilizing "text to protect" programs.
Decatur school leaders said they look into any threat that is made, but also do not have a program in place to *continuously monitor students. They said 90 percent of threats or things they look into are low-level, off-the-cuff statements students write or say to get attention, but every one is evaluated.
We began investigating Huntsville City Schools' social media monitoring program this summer.
We filed a Freedom of Information Act request June 24. A request by the American Civil Liberties Union prompted our letter.
We asked the district to turn over information on the social media monitoring policy requested by the ACLU.
Our request also asked for the information in a reasonable amount of time.
While Alabama law requires the district to respond in a reasonable amount of time, the law does not define a reasonable amount of time.
Thursday, more than three months after the district received our request, a Huntsville City Schools spokesperson confirmed they are working to get the information to us and to the ACLU, and they hope it's soon, although no time frame was given.
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