Derby schools computer software could track cyber bullying, suicide threats

DERBY, Kan. (KSNW) – A Kansas school district is exploring the idea of adding a cyber bullying and suicide prevention filter system to its students’ computers.

“We have an obligation to protect our children in any way possible,” said Derby Schools Director of Technology Dennis Elledge.

Elledge said the school board is looking into adding the free web-filtering system for schools called securly.

“It’s a monitoring solution that is provided by an internet service provider that watches specific types of things that students do on their Chromebooks,” Elledge said.

Securly’s website states it’s the first product to audit student posts on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. It also states it uses cutting edge natural language processing algorithms to flag activity on social media networks that might be indicative of cyber bullying or self harm.

“If there is something that triggers an alert saying they are doing something that indicates they are looking at either self harm or cyber bullying, it will send an alert back to district staff to let them know that we can intervene to hopefully prevent a suicide,” Elledge said.

In 2016, there were 91 suicide deaths in Sedgwick County. It was the county’s highest suicide rate on record since it began tracking suicides. According to a securly study, on average a school faces a threat of suicide every two weeks.

“Now, anything you want to do there’s either a YouTube video or a Wikipedia article or something that you can find via Google to assist you in your efforts whether those be good things or bad things and the ambiguity of that has just made it more prevalent for us to have to address and deal with,” Elledge said.

KSN asked several Derby parents what they thought about the filtering system.

“I think it’s a good idea because maybe they can prevent something from happening before it does,” said mom Angela Holloway.

Holloway has two middle school kids. She said she often worries about what they are searching on their computers.

“I have to check it every night . . . I do their phones too because there is bad stuff out there and they have access to it freely now,” Holloway said.

The Derby school board is expected to vote on whether or not to add the free system to the district’s computers at its November 8 meeting. If it is approved, the district said it will notify parents about the securly system. Parents will also have the opportunity to opt their children out of the filtering system.


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