Gaggle’s flagship product is called Safety Management.

It works on either Google or Microsoft devices, and looks through all communications written via school-issued email addresses and any documents created, revised or shared through Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, according to Bill McCullough, Gaggle’s vice president of sales. 

Gaggle doesn’t look at web searches or intentionally scan social media. But, when students use school email addresses to activate social media accounts, they might get notifications via email when a new comment is posted or they’re tagged in a photo. Gaggle can see those alerts once they pop up in an inbox.

The service relies on something the company calls “machine learning technology” and trained staff whose job it is to cull through words or files that have been flagged. The algorithm scans for language, including some obvious words and phrases: “kill,” “gun,” “drugs,” any type of hate speech.

But “it’s so much more robust than words,” McCullough said. One example: Gaggle picked up on a girl who wrote an email saying something like, “by the time you read this I’ll be gone.” That message didn’t include an obvious keyword like “suicide,” but was still flagged.

Safety staff sift through what the algorithm has marked and use their discretion to decide if something is a false alarm or requires immediate attention. 

There are tiers, McCullough said. A student using a curse word might just receive a warning email from Gaggle. Then there’s questionable content — drug or alcohol references, professional pornography, bullying language. For those, Gaggle would send emails to a school team — usually the principal, assistant principals and maybe a district administrator.

The top tier involves emergency situations — child pornography, imminent threats involving weapons or a student that might immediately harm themselves. Gaggle would immediately contact school officials and contact the police if they can’t reach someone at school.

Bill Jelkin, the student services director at Millard Public Schools, said when school staff receive an alert, they can call a student into the office, consult a guidance counselor or notify parents. Police can be brought in, too.

“If it was an email and a student said, ‘I’m feeling suicidal today,’ we would immediately investigate, call the student’s parents and find out what’s going on,” he said.

Reporter - Education

Erin is an enterprise reporter for the World-Herald. Previously, Erin covered education. Follow her on Twitter @eduff88. Phone: 402-444-1210.

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