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Burbank school district takes note of Glendale's online monitoring

Burbank school officials stay tuned as GUSD invests in program that watches students' public posts.

August 30, 2013|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Burbank’s schools chief said she plans to keep an eye on neighboring Glendale Unified, who recently hired a Hermosa Beach-based company to monitor the public social networking accounts of its middle and high school students.

“We do not currently monitor students’ social media sites and we have not yet researched the program that Glendale Unified has implemented, but we will be gathering more information,” Burbank Unified Supt. Jan Britz said in an email Thursday.

The Glendale school board agreed this month to pay $40,500 to hire Geo Listening to watch students’ posts to social networking sites such as Twitter and Instagram during the current school year. Chris Frydrych, the company’s founder, stresses the service only looks at publicly accessible posts, and does not look at private emails, text messages or voicemails. He declined to say how many other public or private schools — if any — in Los Angeles County or the state use the service.

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Under the agreement, Geo Listening provides Glendale Unified officials a daily report with how students’ posts relate to bullying, crime, vandalism, truancy or possible suicide.

Glendale Unified piloted the program during the last semester of the last school year at Glendale, Hoover and Crescenta Valley high schools.

School officials say the service allows them to intervene when students could potentially harm themselves or others. However, some parents have criticized the district for not doing more to let them know their children were being monitored.

Based on positive response from school administrators, the service was expanded to four Glendale high schools and four middle schools.

Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan said Geo Listening had provided the district with information that enabled them to step in during situations where students had considered hurting themselves or incidents that involved cyber-bullying.

“The administrators have been able to step in and meet with students and contact families, and provide the appropriate support needed,” he said.

In Burbank, Britz said Burbank school officials maintain a 24-hour telephone hotline available to report bullying and provide an email account through which incidents of bullying can be relayed to school administrators.

“With regards to bullying of any sort, our focus at this time is to strengthen our anti-bullying board policies, as well as working with our staff, students, and parents to promote awareness and provide ongoing training in anti-bullying strategies,” she said.

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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