The Palm Springs Unified School District’s cyber-security system alerted officials of possible dangers this past week when school officials were notified about a gun and bomb threats circulating online.
Will Carr is the director of the district’s tech services, he said the district monitors the activity of about 60,000 computers, these include the computers at schools as well as the devices students take home.
He said the district contracts with a few services that monitor online searches and the student’s activities when they use google gadgets. The Gaggle safety management is software the PSUSD uses to detect any key-words that may raise some flags, such as adult sexual content, vulgarity and violent threats.
“This is where kind of the first little defense for safety and appropriate access to content,” Carr said. “If the student is doing something on Instagram or potentially email another student something they are going to do depending on what they say it triggers an alert.”
This week alone the district’s cyber-security flagged two possible threats at locals schools. The Cathedral City Police Dept. said a Palm Springs High School student posted a photo online with an alleged gun, it alerted the principal and police were called.
Carr said, “School shooting and gun, those key-words were identified.”
The high school principal, Brian Hendra, said the student said he did not mean to harm anyone by posting the photo but said these are threats that he will not take lightly.
Hendra said, “The student has taken down the post and also retracted it since, but in the same sense we take every threat seriously.”
The day after the high school incident, a false bomb threat at Raymond Cree Middle School also alerted school officials. This time it was a student who made the false threat as a way to miss a day of school.
Fortunately, Carr these types of alerts are rare, more prevalent are searches related to self-harm.
Carr said, “I say hey, something is going on please investigate so we can take our actions, it has helped us multiple times over the last 14 years.”
The online monitoring is only done on devices issued by the PSUSD, Carr recommends parents to go onto commonsense.org, it is a website that provides tools on how to keep up with the kid’s online usage on personal devices.